Counterfeit banknotes

One of our key responsibilities as a central bank is to maintain confidence in the currency. We are responsible for providing banknotes that you can use with the confidence that they are genuine.


Our anti-counterfeiting strategy has five key elements:

  1. Developing and issuing new state-of-the-art counterfeit resilient notes. This was one of the primary reasons for moving from cotton-paper to polymer banknotes.
  2. Working with the cash industry so that only high-quality, authentic notes are issued and recirculated.
  3. An active education programme that works with businesses and the public to help people understand how to identify genuine banknotes.
  4. Providing a framework for cash machine companies and those companies that own or operate ATMs so that they can test and prove that their equipment and processes meets minimum authentication standards.
  5. Working closely with law enforcement agencies to disrupt counterfeiting operations.

How to check your banknotes

How many counterfeit banknotes are in circulation?

The vast majority of counterfeits are discovered before they go back into circulation, when retailers and the banking system are sorting them. A smaller number are detected by the public or retailers who hand them directly to the police, or when the police carry out search warrants. Counterfeits are typically removed from circulation quickly, often after a single use.

Only a small fraction, typically less than 0.02% of banknotes are counterfeit, that is less than 1 in 5,000 banknotes. In 2018, around 461,000 counterfeit Bank of England banknotes with a face value of £10 million were taken out of circulation. At any one time, there is an average of 3.8 billion genuine banknotes in circulation, with a face value of around £73 billion.

The figures show the 2018 data, along with annual data since 2009.

View the data

This page was last updated 18 March 2019
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