“Sorry mate, I’ve only got a £20 note.” No problem, I’ve got change. Marc the Big Issue seller was happy to sell a magazine to a friendly-seeming stranger. He wasn’t happy when he tried to spend the note. It was a forgery, worth nothing. That was his day’s earnings gone.
Young people are great users of cash. Even so, they are not very likely to come across a forged note. They are relatively rare and don’t circulate for long. Just under 250,000 counterfeit £20 notes were taken out of circulation last year. Which sounds a lot, but not as a proportion of the 1.6 billion genuine £20 notes in circulation. Perhaps Marc was targeted as a vulnerable person, assumed to lack the confidence or knowledge to check a note.
Key things worth knowing about bank notes
- What are you supposed to do, legally, if someone tries to give you a forged note, in change or for payment? Similarly, what is likely to happen to you if you try using one in a shop?
- What are the security features signs of genuine £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes? How can you quickly identify one?
Answers to these are supplied in the Bank of England’s rather old-fashioned public information video, Take a closer look. It’s 15 minutes long and not very zappy. A good activity for groups of young people might be to distil the key information into a faster, slicker and more memorable format – a rap, a poster or whatever suits.
See a quick summary of the key points, below the video.
Summary of key points
It is a criminal offence to pass on or even hold onto a counterfeit note. If you have one, hand it to the police as soon as possible. You’ll get a receipt. If someone tries to give you one, explain that you think it is counterfeit, give the person a receipt and pass it to the police.
Each value note is slightly different but all have raised print that you can feel, a metallic thread, a watermark. precise print quality, a hologram, microlettering visible under a magnifying glass and a number that appears under ultra-violet light. The £20 and £50 notes also have a see-through register forming a £ symbol and the £50 has a motion thread woven into the paper.
All quite amazing. Much more detail at the Bank of England website.