Bank of England – Banknote Checking Scheme News

November 2020: Story courtesy of Bank of England

Our paper £20 and paper £50 notes are the focus of counterfeiters and continue to be so. The impact of the polymer £10 is shown by the reduction seen from 2018 following the previous paper note’s withdrawal in March of that year. £5 notes are not targeted by counterfeiters but have also dropped significantly since the previous paper design was withdrawn. We hope to see this improvement replicated for the £20 note, and £50 in due course.

Polymer £10 notes

Since the start of this year we have, however, seen some attempts to forge the polymer £10 note using a plastic material (different to that of the genuine note) and wanted to let you know that counterfeiters are trying to pass these in shops and businesses.

Importantly, these fake polymer £10 notes can easily be identified by the security features highlighted in our training materials.  In particular, you should always check the Hologram image change. Below the see-through window on the front of the note, there is a silver foil patch containing a hologram. Tilt the note from side to side.  Check the words change between ‘Ten’ and ‘Pounds’.  The same security feature is in place for all polymer notes, with the word ‘Ten’ replaced by the denomination in question.

Polymer £5 damaged notes

There have been a number of incorrect reports on social media or in newspapers claiming that there are counterfeit polymer notes in circulation which can be detected by scratching at them with a coin.  In practice, like many types of printed plastic, if someone scratches polymer notes with a sharp object the print can sometimes be removed.  All current counterfeits can be identified using the security features highlighted in our training materials.  There is no additional benefit in scratching the note.

If you do receive £5 notes that someone else has damaged previously, please take them to your own bank or post office.  If they are not accepted, the Bank of England will reimburse you with the face value of a damaged banknote if you still have at least half of the banknote.  Details on how to apply for a reimbursement are provided on the Bank’s website: Your own bank or post office may do this on your behalf, and issue a receipt.

There’s a full range of information, advice and free educational materials about all our banknotes on the Bank’s website.  The equivalent guidance on Scottish and Northern Irish notes can be found on the Association of Commercial Banknote Issuers’ website.

“Composite” counterfeit notes

The police have identified that counterfeiters are attempting to target some models of gaming machines and other cash acceptors using counterfeit Bank of England paper design £20 banknotes featuring Adam Smith on the back.

The counterfeits are unusual in that most of the note is genuine with only the section containing the watermark panel being counterfeit, with the two parts taped together. Manufacturers are aware of the new threat and are taking steps to update their software accordingly. Business owners are advised to check with their supplier and install the latest software as soon as possible.

The criminals may then also join together the remaining part of the genuine and counterfeit notes and attempt to pass this second composite counterfeit via a manual payment.  Both types of composite notes can be easily identified as they are crudely cut and joined by tape between the watermark panel and the foil strip on the front, and each section will bear a different serial number (on the back).

As a general rule, we advise that if a note has been joined with tape and the serial numbers on both parts are different these should be reported as counterfeit notes to your local police.

The new polymer £50 note – arriving in 2021

The Bank and the cash industry are working together to prepare for the arrival of the new polymer £50 notewhich will enter circulation in mid-2021 and feature the mathematician Alan Turing.  Like all polymer notes, the £50 will be more resilient against counterfeiting.  Furthermore, the public security features of the banknote will be essentially the same as the other polymer notes in the series, meaning both businesses and the public can be more confident in checking them.  The note is also smaller so will be easier to carry and can be accepted by machines that can’t cope with the paper £50.