• This website sets cookies on your device. To find out more about how we use cookies please refer to our Privacy and Cookie Policy. By continuing to use the site, we’ll assume that you are content for us to set these on your device.
  • Close
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.

During calendar year 2013, the number of counterfeit Bank of England banknotes taken out of circulation was around 680,000 with a face value1 of £11.5mn.  This is just a tiny proportion of the genuine notes in circulation: an average over 3 billion with a face value exceeding £55 billion.

The table below shows the total number of counterfeit and genuine banknotes in circulation in 2013. Counterfeits are typically removed from circulation quickly, often after a single use.

1 Counterfeit notes are worthless.

Counterfeit and Genuine Bank of England Banknotes in 2013 (numbers of notes)

Denomination
 
Counterfeit banknotes taken out of circulation
(rounded to nearest 1000)
 
Genuine banknotes in circulation
(averaged for the year rounded to nearest 1mn)
£5
 
5,000
 
310,000,000
£10
 
244,000
 
723,000,000
£20
 
416,000
 
1,792,000,000
£50
 
15,000
 
215,000,000
Total
 
680,000
 
3,040,000,000

 

The data includes counterfeit Bank of England banknotes discovered in 2013 and recorded by the Bank of England by 9 March 2014.  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 annual figures may be subject to revision. 

Chart 1

Number of counterfeits removed from circulation

Click on image to enlarge

Data table for Chart 1:

Number of Counterfeits Discovered
​£5 ​£10 ​£20 ​£50 ​Total
​2002 105,000 ​142,000 ​185,000 ​7,000 ​439,000
​2003 ​56,000 ​35,000 ​283,000 ​7,000 381,000
​2004 ​20,000 ​15,000 ​291,000 ​6,000 332,000
​2005 ​6,000 ​7,000 ​485,000 ​6,000 ​504,000
​2006 ​8,000 ​8,000 ​367,000 ​6,000 ​389,000
​2007 ​4,000 ​6,000 ​284,000 ​4,000 ​298,000
2008 ​4,000 ​5,000 ​691,000 ​3,000 ​703,000
​2009 ​4,000 ​21,000 ​543,000 ​3,000 ​571,000
​2010 ​6,000 ​11,000 ​283,000 ​4,000 ​304,000
​2011 ​5,000 ​121,000 ​255,000 ​2,000 ​383,000
​2012 4,000​ 162,000​ 554,000​ 15,000​ 735,000​
​2013 ​5,000 ​244,000 ​416,000 ​15,000 680,000

 

Chart 2

Total face value of counterfeits removed from circulation (£mn)

Click on image to enlarge

Data table for Chart 2:

​Value of Counterfeits Discovered (£mn) rounded to nearest £1000
​£5 ​£10 ​£20 ​£50 ​Total /£
​2002 £​0.525 ​£1.420 ​£3.700 £​0.350 ​£5.995
​2003 ​£0.280 £​0.350 ​£5.660 £​0.350 £6.640
​2004 £​0.100 ​£0.150 £​5.820 ​£0.300 £​6.370
​2005 ​£0.030 ​£0.070 £​9.700 £​0.300 ​£10.100
​2006 ​£0.040 £​0.080 £​7.340 £​0.300 ​£7.760
​2007 ​£0.020 £​0.060 ​£5.680 £​0.200 £​5.960
​2008 ​£0.020 £​0.050 ​£13.820 £​0.150 £14.040
​2009 £​0.020 £​0.210 ​£10.860 £​0.150 ​£11.240
​2010 ​£0.030 £​0.110 ​£5.660 £​0.200 ​£6.000
​2011 £​0.025 ​£1.210 £​5,100 £​0.100 ​£6.435
​2012 £0.020​ £1.620 £11,080 £0.750​ £13.470
​2013 ​£0.025 ​£2.440 ​£8.320 ​£0.750 ​£11.535

 

Chart 3 shows the total number of counterfeits taken out of circulation together with those found by the police before they had entered circulation, where this was in quantities of 1000 notes or more, termed ‘bulk seizures’.

Chart 3

Counterfeit notes removed from circulation and police bulk seizures (1000 notes or more)

Click on image to enlarge

Data table for Chart 3:

​Number of Counterfeits Discovered
​Excluding bulk seizures ​bulk seizures
​2002 ​439,000 ​252,000
​2003 ​381,000 ​3,000
​2004 ​332,000 ​350,000
​2005 ​504,000 ​45,000
​2006 ​389,000 ​8,000
​2007 ​298,000 ​15,000
​2008 ​703,000 ​13,000
​2009 ​571,000 ​20,000
​2010 ​304,000 42,000
​2011 ​383,000 ​0
​2012 735,000​ 9,000​
​2013 ​680,000 ​7,000
 

The Bank's work to combat counterfeiting

First, Bank of England banknotes are designed to be difficult and time consuming to copy by both traditional and computer-based printing methods. The security features that the notes carry, including the raised print, feel of the paper, threads, watermarks, holograms and fluorescent inks, provide a series of hurdles for the would-be counterfeiter. The Bank works closely with De La Rue, the printer of Bank of England banknotes, to ensure that new banknotes are of a uniformly high quality. The Bank has announced that it intends to issue the next £5 and £10 designs on polymer as part of a strategy of increasing counterfeit resilience.  No decisions have been made on the substrate for the next £20 and £50 but increasing counterfeit resilience will be a key factor in the decision.
 
Second, the Bank provides a range of education and training materials about Bank of England banknotes to help cash users, (retailers, commercial bank staff and members of the public), check that their banknotes are genuine. Information is available on the Bank’s website, in booklets and posters, in a short film guide and in a computer-based training package aimed at professionals. In March 2014 we introduced a banknote checking app, which can be downloaded free of charge for both Apple IOS and Android by searching for ‘Bank of England banknotes’ on your device’s App store.   Businesses and retailers are encouraged to train staff who handle cash to check for genuine notes as criminals target places where checking is poor or does not take place.  The Bank has an on-going training programme for those involved in front-line law enforcement and regularly conducts public perception surveys on the quality of banknotes in circulation and the incidence of counterfeits.
 
Third, the Bank works closely with law enforcement agencies investigating counterfeit banknotes. It is clear that the larger operations to produce counterfeit Bank of England banknotes, and which account for the vast majority, tend to be associated with organised crime. The Bank provides forensic expertise on counterfeiting methods and expert witness statements and attend court in support of proceedings when required.   In 2013, 1043 statements were issued for prosecution cases, a rise of 10% on the previous year.
 
Fourth, the Bank works with banknote equipment manufacturers so that they are able to access and test their machines with a library of counterfeits on a regular basis. A list of machines that have passed our tests is published here.

The machines that have passed the tests

The Bank also has a programme to ensure that note sorting machines, operated by the commercial wholesale providers of cash under the Bank’s Note Circulation Scheme (and Scottish and Northern Ireland banks where Bank of England notes are processed) are tested with known counterfeits on a regular basis. Notes processed by these providers are used to fill the vast majority of ATM machines in use in the UK.

Fifth, the Bank has supported the introduction of a Code of Conduct for the Authentication of Machine-Dispensed Banknotes.  This is aimed at ensuring that businesses who own and operate machines that dispense cash have in place a means to ensure that the banknotes which are in them are verified for authenticity using a model of machine and software which has met a standard set by us. More information can be found here.

http://www.paymentscouncil.org.uk/what_do_we_do/cash/cash_recycling_code/


Law Enforcement

The Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 is the primary piece of legislation used to bring about successful convictions in the courts. The maximum sentence under this Act is ten years imprisonment. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is also used to confiscate assets where they cannot be proven to be comprised from legitimate activity. In addition, law enforcement authorities can apply to courts for a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) under the Serious Crime Act 2007. A SCPO can, for example, prohibit an individual from buying, owning or using equipment or materials that could be used to manufacture counterfeit currency. It can also be used to stop known counterfeiters from associating after release from prison. Breach of a SCPO is a criminal offence, punishable by a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. An SCPO was used in relation to a currency counterfeiter for the first time in 2008.

Table of Major Cases

​Law Enforcement Agency ​Location ​Arrest date ​Conviction date ​Maximun sentence awarded ​Face value of notes removed from circulation
​City of London Police ​North London ​September 2006 ​June 2007 ​5 years imprisonment ​Over £1 million
​City of London Police ​East London ​October 2006 ​June 2007 ​4 years imprisonment ​Over £5.2 million
​Merseyside Police ​Liverpool ​May 2007 ​April 2009 ​4 years imprisonment ​Over £4.6 million
​Durham Constabulary ​Durham ​June 2007 ​October 2008 ​7 years imprisonment ​Over £78,000
​SOCA ​London ​July 2007 ​March/April 2009 ​4 years and 4 months imprisonment ​Over £647,000
​Lancashire Constabulary ​Blackburn ​August 2007 ​January 2008 ​3 years imprisonment ​Over £83,000
​West Midlands Police ​Wolverhampton ​September 2008 ​February 2009 ​5 years imprisonment ​Over £47,000
​SOCA ​East London ​November 2008 ​June 2009 ​3 years 6 months imprisonment ​Over £2.9 million
​West Midlands Police ​Coventry ​September 2008 and March 2009 ​September 2009 ​6 years ​Over £774,000
​West Yorkshire Police ​Leeds ​June 2009 ​November 2010 ​10 years 8 months imprisonment ​Over £997,000
​Kent Police ​Yalding, Kent ​May 2010 ​March 2011 ​6 years ​Over £124,000
​SOCA ​Kent ​June 2010 ​March 2011 ​7 years imprisonment ​Connection with over £18 mn
​Wiltshire ​Salisbury ​October 2010 ​October 2011 ​15 months imprisonment ​Over £5,600
​City of London Police ​London ​July 2010 ​December 2011 ​2 years 9 months imprisonment ​Over £212,000
​SOCA ​Birmingham ​September 2011 ​January 2013 ​7 years ​Over £1.3 million
​West Midlands Police & City of London police ​West Midlands ​March 2013 ​October 2013 ​3 years ​Over £340,000

 

In addition to the major cases listed above, law enforcement agencies arrest individuals who are caught in possession of counterfeit currency or who are responsible for the distribution and passing of counterfeit banknotes, irrespective of the quantities involved.

Information regarding the production, distribution or passing of counterfeit notes should be reported to local police or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If your information leads to arrest and charge, you may be eligible for a cash reward. More information can be found at www.crimestoppers-uk.org

Back to the top