The Bank's Work to Combat Counterfeiting
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.
The Bank's anti-counterfeiting strategy comprises five key elements:
- Banknote design
- Educational materials
- Working with law enforcement
- Framework for cash handling machines
- Code of Conduct for the Authentication of Machine-Dispensed Banknotes
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 ultra-violet features, 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, £10 and £20 designs on polymer as part of a strategy of increasing counterfeit resilience. No decision has been made on the substrate for the next £50 but increasing counterfeit resilience will be a key factor in the decision. See our Moving to polymer banknotes page for more information.
It is important that everyone checks that their banknotes are genuine. The Bank provides a range of free 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, and a range of materials can be ordered free of charge (booklet, posters, 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. More information can be found here.
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 confidence surveys on the frequency of checking banknotes and the confidence in being able to spot a counterfeit.
Working with law enforcement
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 attends court in support of proceedings when required. In 2013, 1,043 statements were issued for prosecution cases, a rise of 10% on the previous year.
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.
An 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 an 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.
Framework for cash handling machines
The Machine Testing Framework enables the Bank to work with banknote equipment manufacturers so that they are able to access and test their machines with a library of counterfeits on a regular basis.
Manufacturers are free to participate in this initiative at any time, and a list of machines that have passed our tests can be found on our website. More information can be found here.
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.
Code of Conduct for the Authentication of Machine-Dispensed Banknotes
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 dispensed have been verified for authenticity using a model of machine and software which has met the standards set by the Bank in its Machine Testing Framework. More information on the Local Recycling Code can be found on the Cash Services website.