How to check your banknotes

Learn how to check if your banknotes are genuine or counterfeit. We also have specific advice for retailers, businesses and law enforcement.

Overview

You can see close-ups of all our banknotes, including details of their security features, in our banknote guides: 

We also have free educational materials to help you check your banknotes.

Online banknote training

This highlights the security and design features of our banknotes and includes a short test. It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Banknote training

Banknote app

This app contains full details of the security features on all banknotes, together with a range of other useful advice and information about our banknotes.

AppleDownload on the App Store

AndroidDownload for Android

What do I do if I get a counterfeit banknote?

Counterfeit banknotes are rare and also worthless. 

We cannot reimburse you for counterfeit banknotes. If you suspect that you have a counterfeit banknote, please take it to your nearest police station. The police should fill out an NCO-1 form and provide you with a receipt and incident number. The suspect notes will be sent to the National Crime Agency and if counterfeit to the Bank of England for further examination.

If you have information about someone making, selling or using counterfeit banknotes, please contact the police or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Counterfeiting directly funds organised crime. It hurts the UK economy by creating losses for businesses, which ultimately affects the cost of things that we buy. It also affects the pocket of anyone who receives a counterfeit note, as they are worthless. If you report counterfeiting to the police, you are helping with investigations and alerting them to a problem in their area. This means that they can take action to protect your community.

Retailers and businesses: banknote checking advice

We encourage retailers and businesses to check all banknotes carefully. You should make sure all staff know what to do if they suspect a banknote is counterfeit. Counterfeiters will target businesses where they know that banknotes aren’t being checked properly. 

You can make manual checks quickly and easily using the banknote security features. Don't rely on checking just one security feature; check a few.

Retailers and businesses are invited to join the Banknote Checking Scheme, which promotes increased banknote checking through targeted education and training.

All of our educational materials are available free of charge to help you check your banknotes.

If you would like to receive any of the films in mp4 format or the online training course as a zipfile to help train your staff, email banknoteinfo@bankofengland.co.uk.

Hints and tips for retailers

Be aware that people trying to use counterfeit banknotes will often try to buy a low-value item using a high-value note such as a £20 note. This is so that they can get away with your stock and money from your till.

Using UV lamps to check that a banknote is genuine

A good quality ultra violet (UV) lamp that emits light at around 365 nanometres is best for checking the fluorescent feature on the £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes. The use of LED (Light Emitting Diode) devices (such as key fob type detectors) is not recommended as the majority of these emit light at greater than 365 nanometres. Remember, do not just check one security feature but check a few such as the feel of the paper and the raised print, the watermark and the metallic thread.

Using a "detector pen" to check that banknotes are genuine

The pens work by reacting with the starch that is present in ‘normal’ wood pulp paper.  So, whilst they can detect some (but not all) counterfeits printed on paper, they won’t detect counterfeits printed on polymer.  Be careful as old or dirty pens can be unreliable.

Company policies on counterfeit banknotes

You should make sure your staff know what to do if they suspect a banknote is counterfeit. The following guidelines are provided as industry best practice.

If you are handed a banknote that you suspect is counterfeit, keep it and ask for another form of payment if you feel safe to do so. If the circumstances are suspicious – i.e. you suspect that the customer is knowingly trying to pass a counterfeit banknote – call the police and hand the note to them. If it is not suspicious, provide the customer with a receipt. Depending on your company policy, you can send the banknote to the Bank of England via your own bank or directly to us using our counterfeit reporting form.

If your staff feel at risk they should refuse the note but not keep it, and ask for another form of payment instead. They should report the incident internally as per your company’s policy.

If you discover a counterfeit banknote during your daily cashing-up process and the circumstances are not suspicious or if there is no evidence linking it to a specific customer (e.g. CCTV footage or storecard details), again follow your company policy and either take it to your bank or send directly to the Bank of England using our form. In suspicious circumstances or if there is evidence linking the customer to the transaction, please contact the police for advice first. Banknotes that are to be given to the police should be bagged and handled by as few people as possible, as they could provide a source of forensic evidence.

The police and banks send counterfeit banknotes to us for analysis. We will issue you with a receipt for any counterfeit banknotes you send us, and you will be reimbursed for any that turn out to be genuine.

For more information, you can contact us on +44 (0)20 3461 4878.

PDFCounterfeit banknote reporting form 

Banknote Bulletin email

If you would like to keep up-to-date with our latest banknote news, sign up to our email.

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Testing automatic banknote handling machines

Machines that automatically accept, count or sort banknotes are tested to ensure they meet a minimum standard for authenticity checking, which is set by us.

The machine testing framework enables manufacturers to test their machines with counterfeit banknotes to ensure that they only accept genuine banknotes. The framework also supports the Code of Conduct for Local Recycling, which ensure that ATMs and self-service checkouts only dispense notes that have been authenticated to our standards.

PDFVoluntary machine testing framework

Businesses may use this listing to make informed choices about the equipment that they operate. Manufacturers often update the software in their machines for a new banknote design or to make authentication improvements. If you are a business owner or operator of a machine you can check you are using a current listed software and/or firmware version.

We test example models, and not every machine manufactured. Please be aware of the limitations of our testing (as set out in section 9 of the framework), and also contact us if a manufacturer or model of machine is not listed.

ExcelDetails of the machines that pass the tests

You can sign up to email updates for the latest news on testing automatic banknote handling machines.

Sign up

For further information, or to apply to take part in the framework, email cash.machinetesting@bankofengland.co.uk.

Code of Conduct for the Authentication of Machine-Dispensed Banknotes

Banknotes can be dispensed by machines such as ATMs or self-service checkouts. 

To help make sure notes dispensed by these machines are genuine we, along with industry sponsors, have a Code of Conduct for Authentication of Machine-Dispensed Banknotes for business owners to follow.
 
The code requires all banknotes dispensed in this way to be authenticated using a machine listed in our framework for testing automatic banknote handling machines (for notes issued by the Bank of England) or in the Association of  Commercial Banknote Issuers’ framework for Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes. 

For more information, visit the Cash Services website.

Advice for law enforcement 

The police and other law enforcement agencies are vitally important in the fight against banknote counterfeiting.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has national responsibility for counterfeiting in the UK. It relies on the expertise and help of regional police forces in the ongoing fight against counterfeiters.

Most counterfeit banknotes are produced by organised crime groups, to be used once only. The police need to be able to identify genuine banknotes so they can help when counterfeit banknotes are discovered.

To help the police, we have a range of free educational materials.

We help with Crown Prosecution cases by providing written expert witness statements and attending court when necessary. Our experts cover counterfeit Bank of England banknotes and counterfeit Euro banknotes. Requests for witness statements for counterfeit banknotes should be made via the NCA on 0370 496 7622.

We can also cross-reference serial numbers to help the police by identifying issue dates of genuine banknotes. If your force requires statements or information about this, email banknote.enquiries@bankofengland.co.uk.

PDFMajor cases

Police training

With the support of the NCA, we have introduced a training initiative to give police officers the necessary skills to identify genuine and counterfeit banknotes.

We deliver short, targeted training at force level to training managers, who will then pass on relevant knowledge and educational materials to officers. If your force would like help, training or advice, email banknote.enquiries@bankofengland.co.uk.

Police procedures 

All counterfeit banknotes must be submitted to the United Kingdom National Central Office (UKNCO) at the National Crime Agency (NCA) via the instructions on your force intranet site.

If you need any advice or guidance on counterfeit currency investigations, call the UKNCO at the NCA on 0370 496 7622. It is extremely important that you contact them immediately if you discover any counterfeit manufacturing facility, no matter how small.

This page was last updated 12 April 2018
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