In the lead up to Christmas, the independent crime-fighting charity, Crimestoppers, is warning the public to watch out for counterfeit bank notes.
Whilst less than 1% of notes in circulation are fakes, this is not a victimless crime. Many retailers, businesses, school, charities and the elderly have been conned out of money using fake notes.
In the first half of 2016, around 152,000 worthless counterfeit banknotes with a notional value of over £3million were removed from the UK’s streets, while the figure for the whole of 2015 was over £5 million.
Recent incidents reported include buyers turning up in person to use fake notes to pay for items sold on Gumtree, Friday Ad, Facebook and other buy-and-sell websites, leaving sellers out of pocket.
While the Bank of England works hard to counter the production of fraudulent currency, including the launch of the new polymer £5 note, people should remain vigilant.
Here's what to look out for:
On paper banknotes:
- Feeling for raised print across the words ‘Bank of England’
- Holding the note up to the light to check the watermark
- Looking for the metallic thread running through every genuine paper note
On the new polymer £5 note:
- Checking the see-through window and the portrait of the Queen
- Looking at the Elizabeth tower to check it is gold on the front of the note and silver on the back
- Checking the foil patches
“Knowingly holding or passing on fake notes is a crime”
Crimestoppers’ chief executive, Mark Hallas, says: “The purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of counterfeit money, especially around Christmas when there are more transactions happening and money can be tight.
“Purchasing counterfeit notes can be tempting and many people do not realise that, not only are these notes completely worthless, but knowingly holding or passing them on is a crime.”
Ben Crosland, senior manager of the banknote education team at the Bank of England, says: “Christmas is a busy time for both retailers and the public, and unfortunately it provides an opportunity for criminals to pass on counterfeit notes as payment. While we work hard to stay one step ahead of fraudsters, it is important people check security features on the £5, £10, £20 and £50 banknotes when they are passed in transactions.”
Anyone with information on those making, selling or buying counterfeit notes, or simply wanting to find out more about the impact of this crime, should visit fakenotes.co.uk. People can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously with information on 0800 555 111, safe in the knowledge that they will never have to give a statement to police or go to court.