Advice for retailers and businesses

Check all notes carefully and join our free Banknote Checking Scheme

Check notes at point of sale

Counterfeit notes are rare, but it pays to be careful as they are worthless. 

Counterfeiters target businesses where they know that banknotes aren’t being checked properly. 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.

So we advise you to check notes at the point of sale. Checking banknotes is quick and easy. Find out how to check your banknotes.

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

Use our free training materials

Watch our short film on banknote security features:

  • The Bank of England banknotes. There are four denominations of banknotes in circulation: £5, £10, £20 and £50. There are £5, £10 and £20 notes printed on polymer. And £20 and £50 notes printed on paper. This film will run through a number of key security features. You should check these features to ensure notes are genuine.

    The following security features are found on the polymer notes. There is a large see-through window. A portrait of the Queen is printed on the window with the numerical value of the note and the words 'Bank of England' printed twice around the edge. A metallic image is positioned over the window. The foil is gold on the front of the £5 and £10 notes and blue and gold on the front of the £20 note. The foil is silver on the back of all notes. On the polymer £20 note, there is a second, smaller window in the bottom corner of the note.

    Below the large see-through window on the front of the notes, there is a silver foil patch containing a hologram. When you tilt the notes from side to side, the words change between the value of the note and 'Pounds'. A 3D image of the coronation crown appears above the see-through window.

    The following security features are found on the paper notes. When you tilt the paper £20 note from side to side, the holographic images on the foil strip change between a '£' symbol and the number '20'. When you tilt the £50 note up and down or side to side, the images on the green motion thread change between a '£' symbol and the number '50'. When paper banknotes are held up to the light, there is a bright denomination at the top of the Queen's portrait in the watermark.

    Some security features are common across all current Bank of England banknotes. On the front of any of the notes, you can feel raised print. For example, on the words 'Bank of England' and in the bottom right corner. Under a good quality ultraviolet light, the numerical value appears in bright red and green on the front of the notes, against a duller background.

    The Bank of England banknotes

Free online training

Our free online training highlights the security and design features of our banknotes and includes a short test. It takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Start banknote training

Join our free Banknote Checking Scheme

Our Banknote Checking Scheme will keep you up-to-date with the latest information about our notes and best ways to check them.

Why you should join

It’s free to join. The scheme will help your business to:

  • reduce the financial loss and reputational risks caused by counterfeit notes
  • build a relationship with us (we’ll send you all the latest information and learn from your experiences)
  • support society by helping to prevent the spread of counterfeits and the crime associated with them

Join our scheme

What joining the scheme involves

Guiding principles infographic for both staff and businesses
  • By joining the scheme, you agree to: 

    • train your staff so they can check notes at point of sale
    • make sure your staff know what to do with a counterfeit note
    • help us improve banknote security by sharing your experiences with us
    • promote the scheme
    • support law enforcement activities
    • have someone who is responsible for the scheme in your business

What to do if you get a counterfeit note

Make sure your staff know what to do by having a clear company policy to follow, if they suspect a note is counterfeit (fake). The best approach is to follow these steps:

Diagram of guidelines on what to do if you get a counterfeit note
  • If the customer is present, and you feel at risk:

    • Refuse the note and ask for another form of payment
    • Contact the police when it is safe to do so

    If the customer is present, and you do not feel at risk:

    • Keep the note and provide the customer with a receipt for it
    • Ask for another form of payment
    • Tell the customer they will be reimbursed if the note is genuine
    • Contact the police or take the note to your bank and tell them you suspect it is counterfeit

    If the customer has left:

    • Take the note to your bank and tell them you suspect it is counterfeit
    • Or contact the police

Who we’re working with 

Our strategic partners help us to promote and develop the scheme
Association of Convenience Stores
Best Bar None
The BID Foundation
British Retail Consortium
Crimestoppers
National Business Crime Centre
Charity Retail Association
National Crime Agency
National Police Chiefs’ Council
National Pubwatch
Petrol Retailers Association
National Pawnbrokers Association
Retailers Against Crime

The scheme covers Bank of England banknotes. If you need information about Scottish and Northern Ireland banknotes, please contact the Association of Commercial Banknote Issuers.

How to contact us about the scheme

If you have any questions about the scheme, you can email us at: banknotecheckingscheme@bankofengland.co.uk.

Using UV lamps, detector pens and authentication machines

Ultraviolet (UV) lamps

A UV lamp which emits light at around 365 nanometres is ideal for checking the fluorescent features on all our notes. We do not advise using LED (Light Emitting Diode) devices, such as key-fob style detectors because these often emit light above 365 nanometres.  Some counterfeiters do attempt to copy UV features, so make sure your staff know exactly what to look for, such as the colours we use in the UV numbers.

Detector pens

Detector pens don’t spot counterfeits printed on polymer. They work by reacting with the starch present in ‘normal’ paper. They can detect some counterfeits printed on paper, but not all. If you do use one, remember old or dirty pens can be unreliable. We advise checking more than one security feature.

Using banknote authentication machines

If you use a machine to check banknotes, make sure it can spot the latest counterfeit notes. Our machine-testing framework enables manufacturers to test their machines with counterfeit banknotes to ensure they only accept genuine banknotes. We publish a list of models and software versions that meet our standards.  Businesses can use it to make informed choices about the equipment they use.

This page was last updated 06 July 2020

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