Guide to Detecting Fake Polymer & Paper Bank Notes

Counterfeit money is very common and with the advances in technology available to criminals the fake notes in circulation today are generally of a high quality

There are many methods of checking bank notes and we would advise that you check more than one feature whenever possible

The following information refers to Bank of England bank notes but many of these checks can also be performed on other bank notes

  • Ultra-Violet Features - If you look at a bank note under a UV light at a wavelength of 365nm you will see the value of the note in bright green and red. There will also be red and green flecks randomly spread on the front & back of the note. The rest of the note will remain dull. A fake note however will appear bright under the UV light. UV security features are present on all British bank notes including the new polymer bank notes issued by the Bank of England as well as the Scottish and Northern Irish banknote-issuing banks.

  • Check the raised print - If you run your fingers along a bank note you will feel some raised print, eg on the £20 note in the bottom right corner

  • Check the metallic thread - there is a metallic thread embedded in every bank note, you should see a continuous dark line when holding the note up against light

  • Watermarks - Each bank note has a watermark 

  • Use a note-checker pen - If you use a note checker pen on a bank note it should produce an almost transparent mark but when used on a fake note it should produce a dark mark. This is due to a reaction between the pen ink and the paper. This is not very reliable though as there is an easy and well-known method that criminals use to prevent the pens marking the notes. Note checker pens are not suitable for detecting fake polymer bank notes.

In an ideal world we would advise you use at least 2 or 3 of the above methods.

However in a busy retail environment it is not always possible so the quickest and most reliable method is to use a UV note checker to quickly check for the UV mark and check that the rest of the note stays dull. This is the quickest and most reliable method for checking both polymer & paper bank notes.

The Bank of England advise using UV light with a peak wavelength of 365nm and advise against using LED UV lights as they emit a broad range of UV wavelengths and don't have a concentrated peak at 365nm - therefore they do not illuminate the UV security features adequately and also cause other parts of the note to fluoresce which often leads to mistakes in checking the notes. There is currently research and development work ongoing to develop UV LED's capable of emitting UV light with a concentrated peak  wavelength at 365nm - we will be the first to stock these when available and will update you with any developments.

All our UV Note Checkers and replacement bulbs emit UV light at a peak wavelength of 365nm as recommended by the Bank of England.

The Bank of England provide a range of free Bank Note Checking Educational Materials including free printed guides/posters as well as online guides and films.

 Click here for further information on Bank of England Bank Notes 

 Click here for further information on Scottish & Northern Irish Bank Notes