Counterfeit banknotes refer to currency produced without the legal sanction of a state or government, usually in a deliberate attempt to imitate that currency and so as to deceive its recipient. Producing or using counterfeit money is a form of fraud or forgery, and is illegal. The business of counterfeiting money is nearly as old as money itself: plated copies (known as Fourrées) have been found of Lydian coins, which are thought to be among the first Western coins.
COUNTERFEIT BANKNOTES : Overview
Our anti-counterfeiting strategy has five key elements:
- Developing and issuing new state-of-the-art counterfeit resilient notes. This was one of the primary reasons for moving from cotton-paper to polymer banknotes.
- Working with the cash industry so that only high-quality, authentic notes are issued and recirculated.
- An active education programme that works with businesses and the public to help people understand how to identify genuine banknotes.
- Providing a framework for cash machine companies and those companies that own or operate ATMs so that they can test and prove that their equipment and processes meets minimum authentication standards.
- Working closely with law enforcement agencies to disrupt counterfeiting operations.
COUNTERFEIT BANKNOTES : How many counterfeit banknotes are in circulation?
Counterfeiting is sufficiently prevalent throughout history that it has been called “the world’s second-oldest profession”. The vast majority of counterfeits are discovered before they go back into circulation, when retailers and the banking system are sorting them. A smaller number are detected by the public or retailers who hand them directly to the police, or when the police carry out search warrants. Counterfeits are typically removed from circulation quickly, often after a single use.
In 2022 typically less than 0.0042% of banknotes were counterfeit, that is less than 1 in 24,000 banknotes. Some 199,000 counterfeit Bank of England banknotes with a nominal face value of £4.4 million were taken out of circulation. At any one time, there is around 4.7 billion genuine banknotes in circulation, with a notional face value of £82 billion.
Counterfeiting has substantially reduced since 2019 as a result of a combination of factors such as the introduction of more robust polymer banknotes and the subsequent withdrawal of the older paper designs, successful police action on the sources and distribution of counterfeits and the general move to electronic payments. Counterfeit volumes were also substantially affected by the lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021.
The figures show the 2022 data, along with annual data since 2005. We anticipate that figures for 2021 and 2022 will rise slightly by a few percent once a backlog of police cases from this period are processed later this year.
What do I do if I get a counterfeit banknote?
Counterfeit banknotes are rare and also worthless.
We cannot reimburse you for counterfeit banknotes. If you suspect that you have a counterfeit banknote, please take it to your nearest police station. The police should fill out an NCO-1 form and provide you with a receipt and incident number. The suspect notes will be sent to the National Crime Agency and if counterfeit to the Bank of England for further examination.
If you have information about someone making, selling or using counterfeit banknotes, please contact the police or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
We are aware of a small number of online accounts claiming to provide counterfeit banknotes – often these are cases of deceptive fraud (scams), even where they show images or video. These ‘adverts’ may be seen on social media, marketplaces and forums. You should never attempt to purchase any of these items. If you see counterfeit banknotes being advertised online, please report this to the hosting website’s dedicated reporting team (as listed on the hosting website’s help page). By reporting such activity directly to the website host, you can help reduce this type of online activity.
Counterfeiting directly funds organised crime. It hurts the UK economy by creating losses for businesses, which ultimately affects the cost of things that we buy. It also affects the pocket of anyone who receives a counterfeit note, as they are worthless. If you report counterfeiting to the police, you are helping with investigations and alerting them to a problem in their area. This means that they can take action to protect your community.