Information for retailers and businesses

We encourage retailers and businesses to check all banknotes carefully.

Banknote checking advice

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 

Counterfeit prevention - advice for retailers and businesses

Current Bank of England banknotes – key security features

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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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

The Bank of England does not collect any personal data through your use of these Apps. You may want to review the Apple Privacy policy which can be found here and the Google Play Privacy policy which can be found here.

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.

This page was last updated 18 October 2018
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