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Counterfeit money: how to recognize a counterfeit banknote and what to do with it next

How to distinguish counterfeit hryvnia. Photo: Flickr / Elizaveta Sergienko / NBU Press Center

How to distinguish counterfeit hryvnia. Photo: Flickr / Elizaveta Sergienko / NBU Press Center

In late December 2020, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) exposed an organized group that was selling counterfeit money. According to preliminary data, the banknotes contained security elements, and due to that they were mistaken for real ones.

Unfortunately, sooner or later fake money may end up in your wallet, and no one is safe from that. The Page has been figuring out how to tell the difference between counterfeit banknotes, what to do if the money has been found to be counterfeit, and how to protect yourself.


How to distinguish fake money from real money?

It is possible to distinguish fake money from real money without special devices. When examining a banknote in detail, it is necessary to check for the presence of a watermark, a security line, an embossed element, a hidden embossed denomination image, etc. In addition, it is important to examine their location on the banknote.

  • Watermark—if you look at the banknote against the light, then in the left blank part of the banknote you can see the portrait of the person depicted on the banknote and the denomination.
  • Security line is located on the side of the banknote center, it can be viewed against the light or under UV rays (in this case, the line has a distinctive glow).
  • Embossed printing — the protection degree in the form of graphic elements. The paint protrudes above the paper, and because of this, the roughness is felt to the touch (there are several such printing on the banknote).
  • Each banknote has a hidden text in the form of a digital denomination. It can be viewed from an acute angle to the light source.
  • The banknotes have an Orlov printing—a sharp transition from one color to another without tearing or displacing the graphic elements on the banknote.
  • Microtext—repeating inscriptions that can be seen under a magnifying glass.
  • The banknote paper does not glow in UV rays. Only some of its elements can glow.


What money is most often counterfeited?

According to the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), 500 UAH banknotes are most often counterfeited. Small bills do not attract fraudsters—the costs of counterfeiting them often do not pay off, so they practically do not attract fraudsters.

But in January 2020, very high-quality fakes of 200 hryvnia banknotes of the 2007 sample appeared in Ukraine. A counterfeit can be distinguished by the color changing effect of the digital designation optical variable image of denomination "200" on the banknote front side.

The NBU constantly monitors the process of withdrawing counterfeit banknotes from circulation. In addition, the regulator issues updated banknotes: according to international standards, this must be done in order to minimize cases of counterfeiting.


What to do if a counterfeit banknote is found?

If a person has found a counterfeit banknote, there are two ways: take it to the bank or contact the police. It is better not to pay anything with such a bill. Recall: counterfeit money is a criminal offense (Article 199 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine—production, storage, acquisition, transportation, transfer, import into Ukraine for the purpose of selling or selling counterfeit money, government securities or state lottery tickets).

The counterfeit banknote can be taken to any bank. The employee will check which category the bill belongs to: insolvent, doubtful, or one that has signs of forgery. If the latter two are found, a bank employee must call the police.

For such banknotes, a formal note will be taken indicating all the banknotes details and an order for the values transfer. After that, the banknote will be taken for verification at the NBU. It is carried out within five days.

If a person finds a counterfeit banknote, they can immediately contact the police. There a case will be filed and the bill will be sent for examination. The person will need to testify: how the bill has got to them, where they could get it, who could have given it.

If the banknote turns out to be real, the person will be called and the money will be returned (or credited to a bank account). If the banknote is still counterfeit and it is established who gave it, it will be possible to return the money only through the courts. If it has not been established who handed over the counterfeit banknote, it will either be destroyed at the bank branch, or returned with a stamp confirming the banknote invalidity.


Where is counterfeit money most common and how to protect yourself?

You can get counterfeit money almost anywhere. Most often this happens in markets, in small stores, at public events and when buying and selling goods through online ad platforms—where the money is most likely not to be checked.

To protect yourself from getting counterfeit banknotes, you should not change money in the markets, in small shops or for strangers; it is better to pay for purchases by bank transfer and carefully examine the banknotes on the spot upon getting them.