Detect a fake note

Published December 21, 2014

Counterfeit banknotes are but a fraction of the currency in circulation. However, what happens when you obtain one? How do you reduce the chances of being passed a fake note? Are topics not widely discussed!

The State Bank of Pakistan has made great strides in both prevention and enabling detection of counterfeit currency. The design of all the currency notes in circulation has virtually been replaced in the past 15 years and this has been primarily driven by the need to introduce security measures that are difficult to copy. On the detection front they’ve ensured that people know how to trace a suspect note. All banks are required to and do display the security feature brochures at prominent places within the branches. The SBP also has it on their website

Yet ask people in your own friends’ circle and family and you’ll realise very quickly they wouldn’t know what a fake note was if it was staring them in the face. Then there are those who will tell you to rub a note on a piece of white paper and if it leaves a trace of ink or not that would indicate that it’s fake. Others would tell you to scratch Quaid-i-Azam’s jacket and if it’s rough then it’s genuine. Then there are those who would encourage you to trace a finger along the edge of the bigger denomination notes and if it were rough then it’s genuine.

Can you tell whether the currency note you have just been handed is genuine or fake? Read on to learn how to do so

Truth be told, for most part these suggestions may be true but understanding how the note is actually printed and where the security features are placed will help you detect the note quicker.

The currency notes that are mostly counterfeited are 100, 500, 1,000 and 5,000; the larger denominations far more than the smaller.

Here are a few simple suggestions on how to detect counterfeit 100, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 currency notes:

The paper

Currency notes are made from special paper in Pakistan that incorporate security features at the time of production. The security thread is embedded in this paper in a manner that:

— It can never be pulled out

— It runs only on the Front Left side of the note

— When viewed while placed on a surface will show an INTERRUPTED thread

— When viewed held up with light behind it will show a COMPLETE thread

— Has the denomination of the note printed on it.

If you experience anything to the contrary then be wary of accepting the note. Counterfeiters will either print a dark strip or put a complete strip inside two sheets of paper.

 The Watermark is the image of Quaid-i-Azam and is on the front left side of the note:

— When viewed while placed on a surface a faint white outline is visible

— When viewed held up with light behind it will show Quaid-i-Azam with the currency denomination

— Watermarks are NOT printed they’re created by changing the thickness of the paper

 If you rub your finger over the surface of the paper of the new note you can feel the surface changes.

If you view anything to the contrary then don’t accept the note. Counterfeiters are known to print the image which is the wrong way to produce the watermark.

 The paper the way it is fabricated will never split in two like tissue paper does.

If you notice that a currency note is splitting at the edges then reject it. While genuine currency through use and mishandling may shred it will never split. Counterfeiters when making notes are known to print the front and reverse of the notes separately and then glue them together.

 Genuine currency notes will note change colour when viewed under Black light or UV Light

This is one of the foremost and quickest ways to detect a counterfeit currency note in a bundle. Pass Black light or UV light over the bundle and if you notice a note that is GLOWING reject that note.

Practice detection by placing a genuine note on a plain white sheet of paper. Switch off the lights, pass a UV / Black light over it. Instantly the white paper will glow with a bluish tinge the currency note will stay neutral.

The printing

Like the paper, the printing process of currency notes is also special. Secured printing is what enables many security features, which if not present or doctored, will help you detect counterfeit currency.

 Specialised ink is used for printing which will never smear or smudge even if wet.

The ink of counterfeit notes generally smudges when wet. If you suspect there may be a problem with the ink then put a drop on the area with the most ink and rub. If it holds it’s genuine, if it doesn’t it’s fake.

A tip commonly shared by people is to rub the surface of a note on a plain paper and see if it leaves a trace of ink on the paper. Some say it should, some say it shouldn’t. It doesn’t really matter because if it does then do you really know how much ink should come on to the plain paper? Does it not depend on the force applied while rubbing the paper on the surface. The bottom-line: this is not the correct way as both genuine and fake notes leave traces of ink.

 The technical application of ink or the paper is what enables the rough surfaces on the Quaid-i-Azam’s jacket and on the edges of the notes.

— Here’s what you should know and look for:

The Quaid’s jacket/sherwani will always leave a trace of roughness no matter how old the note is despite wear and tear, though it does become faint with older notes.

The lines on the edge of the notes ONLY on the front side are rough

Easy detection tip: run a nail of the thumb on the front side of the edges while simultaneously allowing the index finger to slide across the reverse of the note. If the reverse feels rough or hollow hold it up to the light facing you and you’ll find fine perforation marks. Counterfeiters, to create the effect of roughness on the front side, prick the notes from the reverse with pins or perforation wheels. This results in the reverse not being plain.

 Anti-photocopying and anti-scanning process is adopted.

The area to the front left side of the note has fine lines. These lines magically vanish when the note is photocopied or scanned and then printed. Therefore, if the lines aren’t there you know it’s a fake.

 Flags on 500, 1,000 and 5,000 currency notes

— These flags will change colour when viewed at different angles.

Easy detection tip: if the flag doesn’t change colour when the note is viewed from different angles, the note is fake.

 Hidden Denomination of the note is printed near Quaid-i-Azam’s image on the front of the note where the pattern is heavy.

To view this hidden image hold the note up to your eye level with the Quaid-i-Azam away from you. Allow light or sun to pass over the surface and the denomination magically appears.

 Denomination in Urdu script printed on top left front of the note.

— When viewed while placed on a surface it will show incomplete figures

— When viewed while lifted and light passing through it will show complete figure.

Counterfeiters imitate this feature quite often by printing in a dark and light shade to produce the impact when the note is viewed placed on a surface. However lifting the note for light to stream through will show no change unlike in the genuine note.

There are many more features on currency notes that are listed on the State Bank’s website. Check the features out and learn to recognise them.

The key to handling currency notes is to be focused on it. Counting notes while watching something else will prevent you for some of the easiest detection points.

By law if you present a counterfeit note to a bank teller it is their responsibility to immediately put a stamp that says ‘Cancelled’ on it and retain the note. The banks are also authorised to report you to the authorities concerned if they suspect you of deliberately attempting to pass on counterfeit currency. Prosecution can result in fines and jail time. 

Norbert Almeida is a safety & security advisor.


Twitter: @norbalm


Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 21st, 2014



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