Counterfeit money circulates in Market Place

Reflecting trends across the country, businesses in Oundle have experienced counterfeit money. Dexters, The Talbot, Beans, Co-op, Crackers and Oundle News are all known to have received fraudulent notes.

According to Beans Coffee Stop, the most common fake is the £20 note, which has been a recurring problem. In order to verify the note, Beans has a UV light scanner that shows if the note is fake.

Oundle News confiscated this £20 counterfeit note

Oundle News confiscated this £20 counterfeit note

The Co-op also now has a UV light at every till. Sometimes the fake notes do not show up though, and Beans only discovers them when they are exchanging money at the Post Office.

Most of the time, people do not realise their notes are fake. However, the manager at Beans said they can tell when people do know they have a fake note. “They try to buy the cheapest item to get the note off their hands.”

In one incident, “a lady came in with big wedge of £20 notes, and when the one she paid with turned out to be fake, she walked straight into Crackers next door.”

Despite fakes most often being £20 notes, fake £50 notes have also posed a problem. Beans and The Talbot Hotel both received their first fake £50 notes on the same day in late November. These notes do not show up as clearly on the UV scanner, and so each one has to be checked individually by staff.

When a business receives a counterfeit note, it is a criminal offence to pass it on. Beans confiscates the fake note and reports it to the police. The Co-op hands it back and advises the customer to go to the bank.

In 2014, the number of counterfeit Bank of England banknotes taken out of circulation was around 430,000 with a face value of £8.05m, a reduction from 693,000 banknotes with a face value of £11.76m in 2013.

The most counterfeited was the £20 note. Earlier this year it was estimated that as many as three per cent of the old round pounds were fake, representing £50 million of fake coinage in circulation in the UK at the time.

Fake versions of the new fivers are believed to be in circulation, but the new pound coin has been hailed as the most secure currency in the world.

The Bank of England thinks that almost all counterfeit notes are removed from circulation quickly as a result of retailers banking their takings.

Counterfeit money impacts the global economy. There have been cases where a nation has tried to destabilize the economy of a political and economic rival by counterfeiting their currency and transporting it into the market. This not only weakens them economically, but also socially and politically.

But the market has proved hard to combat. It is now much easier to distribute fake goods because of the dark web and encrypted services that protect the identity of the seller. Police are closing accounts down every week but they simply cannot keep track of the number of new businesses springing up.

Prices range from £20 for £400 worth of fake notes to £100 for £2,000 worth. The notes are paid for via Bitcoin or bank transfer, and posted or left at collection points not linked to the seller.

Fraudsters use unmonitored forums and dormant websites to attract traffic to their sites. The Old Northamptonians Cricket Club website has not been active in the last year and its forum is unmonitored and available to anyone to make posts.

The Oundle Chronicle found that this site is being used by fraudsters in the counterfeit market to post discreet links to websites, whatsapp contacts and email addresses for counterfeit bills. One post had 357 views in the last six months.

The claims of one post highlights the problems that counterfeit currency creates: “Our money is perfectly reproduced, Indistinguishable to the eye and to the touch. We are sending in various sizes, packed and hidden. All our notes carries all the holograms and watermarks and passes the light detector test. We will deliver the money directly to your home without the interference of customs. we have a Huge quantity ready in stock.”

The posts direct users to a website that offers counterfeit products based in Bavaria, Germany. Other posts direct buyers to a site from Ukraine.

How can you tell if a note is counterfeit? There is plenty of help on the Bank of England website, including a “banknotes virtual tour” showing how to check for security features on genuine notes.

It is a criminal offence to keep or pass on a note you know to be counterfeit. If you think a note looks dodgy you should hand it to the police, who will issue a receipt promising its return if it turns out to be real.

Joseph Meisner
Tom Pilsbury
December 2018