The Money In Your Pocket: Genuine Or Counterfeit?

Do you ever worry whether the banknotes or coins you have with you are fake? Perhaps you should. It seems that, despite all the efforts of the Bank of England and the National Crime Agency, there’s still a considerable amount of bogus currency circulating in Britain . The Daily Star Sunday journalist, Joe Hinton, has asserted that false £20 notes have been flooding the UK and that in the first half of 2017, more than 237,000 counterfeit banknotes with a “value” of more than £4.88 million were seized by the police.

On 13th March, the London Evening Standard’s Court Correspondent, Tristan Kirk, reported the conviction of a gang that had been running an “Amazon-style factory” in east London producing phoney identity documents, passports and and driving licence along with enough material to create 40,000 sham bank cards and £15,000 in cash. As the local commentator for BBC News, Cormac Campbell, noted on 7th February, there was a similar scenario in Northern Ireland: Seven men were sentenced for their role in a “unique” £1 million pounds counterfeiting enterprise whereby they had been printing forged sterling and euro banknotes “which were good enough to beat the counterfeit pen test”.

Just before Christmas, Amy Fenton, Business Editor of the North-West Evening Mail, publicised the case of a shop owner in Barrow-On-Furness who had spotted that an imitation £10 note was being used to purchase items in his store. He’d realised that the logo on the bottom left of the note was orange instead of holographic silver. Another recent incident, highlighted by Jess Clark, a contributor to the south London publication “News Shopper”, involved a man from Orpington in Kent who had been helping to distribute more than £135,000 worth of fraudulent banknotes.

The Bank of England has issued an “Easy To Follow Guide To Checking Banknotes” encouraging us all to take a closer look at currency which comes into our possession. This includes a warning apparently directed in particular at shop and supermarket employees that the common practice of using detector pens which react to the starch present in “normal” paper (which is still used for printing £20 notes) isn’t always effective and is no help at all in identifying counterfeits printed on polymer.

In the opinion of Trevor Mogg, an Associate Editor with “Digital Trends”, the more robust structure of notes made of polymer, a thin and flexible plastic material, not only renders them extremely resistant to dirt and moisture, so they last much longer than the previous ones, but has enabled the Bank of England to introduce a range of innovative security features. Around 440 million new £5 notes were produced in 2016, followed by polymer £10 ones in 2017, though the changeover for £20 banknotes won’t take place until next year.

The Sun journalist, Jane Denton, has pointed out that the “scam artists” have not been deterred by the fact that the new notes are supposed to be impossible to reproduce. If your £5 note is genuine, she emphasises, the image of the Queen looking at the Elizabeth tower will be gold on the front and silver on the back. When it’s tilted at an angle, the word “Five” changes to “Pounds” and a multi-coloured rainbow effect is visible. The printed lines and colours should be “sharp, clear and free from smudges or blurred edges”. If you happen to have a magnifying glass with you, you’ll be able to see the lettering below the Queen’s portrait detailing the value of the note written in small letters and numbers and on the back there should be a circular green foil patch containing the word “Blenheim”.

In addition, we are advised to feel for the raised print across the words “Bank Of England”, hold the note up to check the watermark and look for the metallic thread running through every genuine paper note. Likewise, the News Shopper’s Jess Clark suggests we examine the front of a £10 note under a good quality ultra-violet light: The number 10 should appear in bright red and green whilst the background remains dull in contrast.

The main problem with all of this, of course, is that few of us have the time or inclination to stand around in a shop or supermarket analysing whether the change we’ve just been given by the cashier is bona fide. Nor are we likely to be carrying around with us the ultra-violet (UV) lamp that the Bank Of England recommends as ideal for checking the fluorescent features on all notes.

The old round-shaped £1 coin, which was apparently very easy to imitate, with an estimated 45 million forgeries in circulation, was replaced in 2017 by the current 12-sided version. Although the Royal Mint has claimed that it’s “the most secure coin in the world”, according to Joe Hinton, gangsters have already worked out how to mimic it, apart from a few minor details such as the fine markings on the head of the thistle emblem on the reverse side. “Anything can be copied”, they told him.

Filed under: Society | Posted on March 26th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon

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