The practice of counterfeiting money appears to date back almost as far as the adoption of currency itself; with the first ever printed money coming to Europe in 1661 from the Swedish Stockholm Bank.
Now, reports suggest that there are millions of fake bank notes and coins currently in circulation. However, today's technology means real notes are manufactured in such a way that sets them apart from their counterfeit counterparts.
In this feature, we'll look at the ways in which businesses and consumers can tell the difference between the two; reducing the risk that you will fall victim to counterfeiting.
What to look for in coins
Three in 100 £1 coins are now said to be fake, according to the Royal Mint; with 44 million counterfeits currently circulating. This means it's more important than ever that Britons - those running businesses especially - know how to detect whether a coin is real or fake.
There are a number of different measures you can take to determine whether you have a genuine coin;
- Side-by-side comparison
First of all, you should make a side-by-side comparison with a coin you know to be genuine. When doing this, you should check that the colour and texture matches that of the real coin, as counterfeit currency will have a slightly different feel; boasting an alternative thickness and weight.
- Intricate details
There are a number of intricate details you can look at. Pay attention to their edges, as these are very complex and contain milling lines - as well as lettering. Real coins will have evenly-spaced milling lines that are of the same depth. The coins will also have a specific design located directly in the centre.
- Surface of the coin
If you scratch the surface of a coin and the colouring seems to flake off or become worn, you may well be in possession of fake currency.
- Specification of a coin
If you want an absolutely accurate measure of whether a coin is real or not, you can check the exact specifications of coins such as their weight, diameter and thickness. For example, a £2 coin should weigh exactly 12g, a £1 will be 9.5g and a 50p piece should weigh in at 8g.
A genuine £1 coin will also have a diameter of 22.5mm and a thickness of 3.15mm. You may want to refer further to the Royal Mint's Coin Guide, which provides full specifications for all coins.
Telling counterfeit notes apart from real ones
There are many methods for detecting forged notes, from UV lights, forgery pens and intelligent safes. There are also physical attributes that you can check for yourself;
The first thing to do if you suspect you have a counterfeit note is have a good feel of it. Real notes tend to feel cloth-like, whereas a fake will have a papery texture. When considering the texture of a bank note, you will also find that some areas of a genuine note are raised (particularly over the 'Bank of England' script), whereas faulty notes are likely to feel flat all over.
- Woven thread
When held up to the light, the woven thread found on real notes will show as a continuous line. Faulty notes may have had the dashes simply drawn on. Looking out for smudges on the note or blurred edges is advised too. The design of genuine notes will be exact and precise, down to every last detail.
Look for the watermark of the Queen's portrait - this should be almost invisible until it is held up to a light source, whereas it may already be visible on counterfeit notes. It's important to note that on new £20 notes, the hologram has been replaced with a holographic strip.
- Decorative swirls
These feature under the Queen's portrait will also spell out the value of the note in alternating letter and numerals, however you may need a magnifying glass to check this lettering is intact.
Handling counterfeit money
It is illegal for anyone to use (or attempt to use) counterfeit notes or coins, so if you're a consumer and suspect you may have one in your possession, hand it in to your local police station.
If you're a business owner or employee, the recommended process is slightly different. If you believe you've been given counterfeit cash, don't hand it back to the person who paid with it. Instead, keep hold of it, call your local police station and - something which is just as crucial - try to keep the person at your property if possible.
Also, try not to handle the counterfeit money more than you need to. Heavy handling of notes or coins will lessen the chances of finding the original owner, so even if you have managed to keep the person that gave you it on-site, try to limit the handling of the cash. If you can, place it in a plastic bag; allowing the police to use it as forensic evidence.
Note - the guidance above is drawn from the Royal Mint and Bank of England and is subject to change - Loomis offers no warranty or guarantee through the provision of this information and it is purely for guidance only.