Spotting fraudulent notes

Counterfeit banknotes: How to spot them

We advise that when trying to authenticate a banknote, you should look for genuine security features, comparing a suspect note with one that is known to be genuine.

Never rely on looking for only one feature – the feature you choose may be one the counterfeiters have attempted to replicate. Instead check for as many as possible of the following:

Serial Numbers

Genuine notes have unique serial numbers therefore if you have two notes displaying the same serial number at least one of them is a counterfeit.


Genuine banknote paper should be reasonably crisp and not limp, waxy or shiny and the special printing processes give banknotes an individual feel. It should not feel like normal paper.


Genuine watermarks should be hardly apparent until the note is held up to the light when the clear portrait with subtle light and shade becomes visible. 

Security Thread

Genuine notes have a metallic thread embedded in the paper and when the note is held up to the light the thread appears as a bold continuous line.


Raised print is used in some of the features on genuine banknotes and should feel slightly rough to the touch. Lines and print should be sharp and well defined with no blurred edges. Colours should be clear and distinct – not hazy.


If a genuine note bears a hologram the colours/images will change depending on the angle the note is held.

Detector Pen

When applied; detector pens leave a dark line on most counterfeit notes; if the note is genuine the pen leaves no mark. We recommend that you mark a suspect banknote diagonally from corner to corner.

UV Light

Genuine banknotes are dull under a UV light with only the special UV features present in the note highlighted yellow.

Possession of a counterfeit banknote

If you do not know who gave you the banknote you are required to take it to any local branch of the affected bank of issue. The bank will complete a "Retention of Counterfeit Currency Form" and give you a copy for your records.

The Bank will then authenticate the banknote before forwarding all counterfeits to the National Crime Agency for analysis.

Counterfeit banknotes are worthless therefore no reimbursement will be given unless the banknote submitted is subsequently found to be genuine.

What to do if you find yourself in possession of a counterfeit banknote:

If you have a banknote that you believe to be counterfeit, and you know for sure who gave you the note, you should take it immediately to the police for investigation.

Additional Educational Material available:

You can find out about Bank of England banknotes on the Bank of England’s website, and Northern Irish banknotes on the website of the Association of Commercial Banknote Issuers.

The Scottish Banks worked together with The Committee of Scottish Bankers to produce banknote ‘tutorials’ that can be accessed on the Scottish Banks website. These ‘tutorials’ show in detail the different standard banknotes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank.  Commemorative banknotes issued for special events are not included in these ‘tutorials’ but you can find out about them by visiting the website pages on “Current banknotes” here on the Scottish Banks website.

You can find out more about Royal Bank of Scotland banknotes on the Royal Bank of Scotland website.

For further support please contact the Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Note Team mailbox - scottishnoteteam@rbs.co.uk.