10 Signs That An Australian Banknote Might Be Forged

Australia’s banknotes incorporate a huge number of features that make them difficult to counterfeit, but that doesn’t mean criminals don’t have a crack at it now and then. Here are the ten most obvious signs that a note might be a fake.

Picture by Stephen Dann

These hints (and the small images) all come straight from the source: the Australian Reserve Bank. If you do encounter a note that you think is a forgery, place it in an envelope (to minimise handling — fingerprints might help trace the source) and give it to a state or federal police officer. If someone gives you a note you think looks dodgy in your change, you’re entitled to ask for a different one. Similarly, if it comes from an ATM, return it to a branch of the same bank. Obviously, the more of these signs you encounter, the more suspect the note is.

It feels too thick or too thin. Most forgers use treated paper rather than the polymer Australian banknotes are built from, so it won’t feel “right”.

It’s easily torn. Again because of the paper factor, forged notes are relatively easy to tear. That doesn’t apply to legitimate currency (you can cut it with scissors, but I don’t advise that unless you’re a performance artist with seriously rich parents or other massive sources of funding).

The note stays crumpled when you scrunch it. Fake notes are likely to stay crumpled if you ball them up (that pesky paper base again). Legitimate notes will largely spring back into shape (though this doesn’t apply to folded corners, as any regular users of ticket-vending machines will attest).

The clear window should be integrated. The clear window in the note should appear entirely integrated, not stuck in afterwards.

You shouldn’t be able to scratch off the white image on the clear window. If you can do this, then the chances are that it’s a fake.

There’s no coat of arms. If you hold a legitimate banknote up to the light, the Australian coat of arms should be visible. [imgclear]

There’s no seven-point star.Another light trick: on both sides of the note, there’s a diamond-shaped pattern in a circle. If you hold it up to the light, the images should align perfectly and form a seven-point star.[imgclear]

Dark printing isn’t raised. Dark text on notes is printed on notes to be slightly raised; this is much less likely to happen on forgeries.

There’s no micro-printing. If you look at a legitimate note with a magnifying glass, you’ll be able to see clearly printed words listing the value of the note. These are found near the portraits, except on the $5 note where they are in the top left corner.

It fails the ultraviolet test. If you look at a legitimate note under ultraviolet light, the only areas that should look fluorescent are the serial number and a small area which shows the value of the note. (The one exception is the $10 note, which only has the fluorescent serial number.)

And the myth? Not all Australian notes have the name of the person pictured on them underneath the portrait. While that has been the case since 2002, there are still older notes in circulation which don’t.

You can check the year a note was issued from its serial number: the first two digits are the year of issue. If a note has no name and a serial number starting with 98, it can’t be declared fake on that basis; if it has no name and a serial number starting with 07, it’s a fake.

Reserve Bank (there’s also a PDF guide)

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