How businesses can stay vigilant with cash payments

Cash usage has been gradually declining over the years, as more businesses now deal primarily with card transactions. Some businesses, however, still prefer to receive cash payments where possible. The use of cash in society also provides an opportunity for criminals, who can profit from the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit currency - writes Seconded Police Officer Angela Brand.


This month, Europol has confirmed that they have dismantled an organised crime counterfeiting network. This network is believed to have produced a quarter of all counterfeit Euro banknotes that have been detected in circulation; with an estimated value of over €233 million Euros. 

The number of counterfeit Scottish banknotes detected and removed from circulation is currently very low, when compared to the total number of genuine notes.

Last year, out of over 325 million Scottish banknotes in circulation, only 0.0363% were found to be counterfeit. This low figure is largely due to the transition from paper banknotes to polymer notes, which are harder to counterfeit due to advanced security features.

Despite this low percentage, you should always be vigilant when accepting cash payments, and ensure that you are able to recognise the differences between a genuine banknote, and a counterfeit one.

Counterfeit notes have no monetary value, and more importantly, the banks will not reimburse you for any counterfeit notes which you accept. Therefore, it is vitally important to allow yourself sufficient time to check banknotes carefully, especially when you are accepting larger cash payments consisting of a large volume of notes.

Banknotes issued in Scotland differ in size, higher denomination notes are sequentially larger than smaller denominations. All Scottish banks also issue notes of specific denominations in the same predominant colour: £5 notes are blue, £10 notes are brown, £20 notes are maroon/purple, £50 notes are green and £100 notes are red. Polymer notes in £5, £10 and £20 denominations are now in circulation. If you have any doubt about the authenticity of a banknote, compare the note with another note that you know to be genuine before accepting it as payment.

It is also good practice to familiarise yourself with the security features of genuine notes. Remember to check for several features - don’t just rely on the presence of one, when deciding whether or not a note is genuine. Be sure to check both sides of the note for these security features, and always remember the golden rules: LOOK – TILT – FEEL - CHECK

Below are some questions to ask yourself when checking banknotes:

· Can you feel raised patterns or lines of text (tactile embossing) on the note?

· When you check the print quality – are the colours correct? Are the lines blurred or clearly defined?

· Is there a security thread embedded within and running the full length of the note?

· Are there sections of microtext hidden in the solid lines of the design?

· Is there holographic foil present on the note?

· Are there transparent sections or windows on the note?

· Do the serial numbers on the note match?

· Are there areas of UV fluorescence on the note when checked under UV light?

Key security and design features of Scottish banknotes are available to download by selecting the appropriate bank from the following link:

A poster of all Scottish banknotes (for ease of reference) is also available here:

Further advice or information regarding banknotes can be obtained from The Committee of Scottish Bankers (CSCB) on their website:

It is a criminal offence to hold or pass a banknote which you know to be counterfeit. If you have a banknote that you believe to be counterfeit and you can identify the person who gave it to you, you should take it to the nearest police station, or contact Police Scotland on 101.

If you cannot identify the person who gave you the banknote, you are required to take it to any branch of the issuing bank. The note will be retained by the bank for recording purposes, then sent for destruction. You will only be reimbursed for the banknote if, after further examination, it is found to be genuine.

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