Five Counterfeit Banknote Detection Methods

| 20 Sep 2018

Five Counterfeit Banknote Detection Methods

The European Central Bank’s latest figures shows a reduction in the number of counterfeit banknotes being withdrawn from circulation.

"Some 301,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the first half of 2018, a decrease of 17.1% when compared with the second half of 2017 and 9.1% less than in the first half of 2017."

However, it is still, unfortunately, a tangible threat to Irish and UK businesses. The sheer number of euro notes in circulation across the eurozone guarantees this. The ECB stated in July that; "There are now well over 21 billion euro banknotes in circulation, with a total value of more than €1.1 trillion."

But why should you care? Well, it is illegal to knowingly pass on a suspected counterfeit note and if you hand it in to your bank you will not be reimbursed for it.

Counterfeiters today are experts in the field of graphic design and computer science. Their finely tuned skillset aligned with the advancement in computer technology and printing machines makes it difficult for Central Banks to produce money that is 100% counterfeit-proof.

We regularly share counterfeit banknote alerts for Ireland and the UK on our news feed and social media pages and after learning about the reduction in counterfeit notes in the eurozone, we decided to compare the number of Irish Euro counterfeit alerts that we published or shared in 2017 versus 2018.

In 2017 we posted a total of ten Irish euro counterfeit banknote alerts. So far this year, we have already published nine alerts for euro notes in Ireland and we still have three and a half months of 2018 left.

As recently as last week, it was being reported in the Irish media that criminals were snapping up fake cash online.

In the wake of these alerts and in particular the article on criminal gangs potentially planning to 'flood the country with fake cash', we felt that, given our position, it was our duty to advise business owners on how best to protect themselves.

In general, there are five methods for identifying counterfeit banknotes. In this article we examine each method in a bit more detail so that you can decide how to effectively protect your business.

five tips counterfeit detection methods

1.  UV Lights

In an article we published on the 11th of September 2017, we explained that there are two major issues with relying on UV lights for counterfeit detection. The first is that you are relying on the user to know exactly where the UV features on each note are located and what they should look like. The second is that good quality counterfeit notes can fool a UV light. One method frequently used by counterfeiters is to take a genuine, low denomination banknote, bleach it and reprint it with a higher denomination. The UV features remain, although they may be in the ‘wrong place’. If you must use a UV light, buy a good quality one and use it indoors in a darker setting. Direct sunlight or daylight can make visual verification almost impossible. It is for this reason that Money Point currently don’t offer UV lights as a means of counterfeit detection.

2.  By Eye

The ECB website provides detailed information and training materials for all cash handlers within the eurozone. Their ‘feel-look-tilt’ method for identifying suspect notes is applicable to all current Europa series notes and allows cash handlers to identify suspect notes by eye. It is important that anyone handling cash within your business is aware of current security features on the euro banknotes and is equipped to identify them, but it is not realistic to expect staff to be able to use this method on every single banknote that passes through your tills, especially during busy periods.

3.  Counterfeit Detection Pens

Counterfeit detection pens are another one of those tools that are designed to give you an indication of whether a note is suspect, but they do not provide definitive proof. They are discreet and quick to use at point of sale which makes them very popular in the retail sector but like UV lights, they can be fooled by good quality counterfeit notes and we don’t advise that they are used alone.

4.  Built-In Detection

If you have other cash handling equipment in your cash office; such as cash depositing and recycling machines or desktop note counters, these machines will have authentication features built in. Most will reject counterfeits as they count, sort and check the fitness of your banknotes. However, if you are relying on your cash office equipment to identify counterfeits, then the note has already been accepted into your business and you will be at a loss should one be identified. A better course of action would be to implement point of sale units which offer this feature as an additional security benefit. An intelligent drop safe which can be installed discreetly at each till point in your business would be a good example of this. These machines offer two main benefits. They allow your staff to do their own till lifts, reducing the amount of cash in the tills and reducing risk in that respect and they provide authentication facility should a suspect note be presented by a customer. Time will also be saved by whoever was previously responsible for till lifts within the organisation.

5.  Electronic Point of Sale Detectors

In our experience an electronic counterfeit detector using multiple detection methods is the most reliable way of identifying counterfeit banknotes at the point of sale. These types of machines use detection methods such as ICD (Intelligent Code Detection), IR (Infrared), and MG (Magnetic Ink) & MT (Magnetic Thread) to identify counterfeit notes. They are equipped with software which automatically identifies whether the note in question has all of the expected security features for that particular currency. They are small and discreet and extremely quick to use. As new notes are released by the European Central Bank, the software on these machines can be updated so that your business continues to be fully protected. 

When protecting your business from counterfeit banknotes, it’s simply a case of the more checks, the better. Unfortunately, it’s also a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. The cheaper a counterfeit detector is, the less checks it will do and the less reliable it will be. Bear this in mind before you part with your cash (pun intended).

If you would like to speak to one of our Cash Automation Specialists, please email us on  or give us a call on 01 8900466.




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