Advice for retailers and businesses

Check all notes carefully

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. All four denominations of notes are printed on polymer. There are also £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, gold and blue on the front of the £20 note, and gold and green on the front of the £50 note. The foil is silver on the back of all notes. On the polymer £20 and £50 notes, there is a second, smaller window in the bottom corner of the note.

    Below the main see-through window on the front of all the polymer notes, there is a silver foil patch containing a hologram. When you tilt the note 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 main 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

What to do if you get a counterfeit note

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

Diagram of guidelines on what to do if you get a counterfeit note

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 17 November 2021

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