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Home > Banknotes > Counterfeit Bank of England Banknotes

Counterfeit Bank of England Banknotes

Counterfeits Removed From Circulation

A key role of the Bank of England is to maintain confidence in the currency. The Bank is responsible for providing banknotes that the public can use with the confidence that they are genuine. As part of this objective, the Bank monitors the incidence of counterfeit Bank of England banknotes by recording the number of counterfeits removed from circulation.
The vast majority of counterfeits are discovered by the banking system when they are separated from genuine banknotes during a sorting process for re-circulation. Some are removed by the public or retailers who hand them into the police or banks and some when the police make arrests or carry out search warrants. Counterfeits are typically removed from circulation quickly, often after a single use.
In the first half of 2017 to end June around 237,000 Bank of England counterfeit banknotes were taken out of circulation with a face value1 of £4.9m. This is just a tiny proportion of the genuine banknotes in circulation - an average of over 3.7 billion with a face value around £70 billion.
The figures below show the H1 2017 data along with annual data since 2008.
1 Counterfeit notes are worthless

Number and Notional Value of Counterfeits Removed from Circulation
(rounded to the nearest 1,000)

​£5 ​£10 ​£20 ​£50 ​TOTAL ​Value (£mn)
​2017 H1 1​,000​ 24,000​​ 199,000​​ 13,000​​ 237,000​​ 4.875​
​2016 2,000 22,000 297,000 26,000 347,000 ​£7.470
​2015 ​1,000 ​52,000 173,000​ 23,000​ 249,000​ £5.135
​2014 ​2,000 ​96,000 ​327,000 ​15,000 ​440,000 ​£8.260
​2013 ​5,000 ​248,000 ​434,000 ​16,000 ​703,000 ​£11.985
​2012 ​4,000 ​163,000 ​563,000 ​16,000 ​746,000 ​£13.710
​2011 ​6,000 ​122,000 ​257,000 ​2,000 ​387,000 ​£6.490
​2010 ​6,000 ​11,000 ​285,000 ​4,000 ​306,000 ​£6.040
​2009 ​4,000 ​21,000 ​544,000 ​3,000 ​572,000 ​£11.260
​2008 ​4,000 ​6,000 ​692,000 ​3,000 ​705,000 ​£14.070
The data includes counterfeit Bank of England banknotes with a discovery date up to 30 June 2017 and recorded by the Bank of England by 5 September 2017. The Bank of England continues to receive some counterfeits several months after they are found because, for example, the police may retain them as evidence. Consequently the figures may be subject to revision.  Following the introduction of the polymer £5 note in September 2016, the data reported for 2016 onwards includes both paper and polymer notes.


Chart 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Chart 2 (click on image to enlarge)Number of counterfeits removed from circulation

Chart 3 (click on image to enlarge)Total face value of counterfeits removed from circulation

Chart 4 shows the number of counterfeits taken out of circulation each year by the Bank and "bulk seizures" of 1,000 notes or more, which are intercepted by the police before they enter circulation.

Chart 4 (click on image to enlarge)Counterfeit notes removed from circulation and police bulk seizures (1000 notes or more)

Table 1: Data for Chart 4

​Total number of counterfeits removed from circulation ​Number of counterfeits removed before they entered circulation (bulk seizures)
​2017 H1 ​237,000​ 0​
​2016 347,000 6,000​​
​2015 249,000 ​0
2014 440,000 0
2013 703,000 ​8,000
​2012 746,000 9,000
​2011 387,000 0
​2010 306,000 ​42,000
​2009 572,000 20,000
​2008 ​705,000 ​13,000

The Bank's Anti-Counterfeiting Strategy

The strategy comprises five key elements:
  • Issuing state-of-the-art banknotes
  • Ensuring high-quality banknotes are issued and recirculated
  • Banknote Education, which includes the free issue of training materials available to use on-line, download or order in print form and a free mobile App for Android and Apple devices
  • A framework for testing automatic cash handling machines and the Code of Conduct for the Authentication of Machine-Dispensed Banknotes
  • Partnership with law enforcement

See the following for more information on the Bank's work to combat counterfeiting, law enforcement and a table of major cases that have resulted in a conviction.

Table of major law enforcement cases that have resulted in a conviction

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