Banknote Watch offers essential advice to businesses as old £5 note is withdrawn from circulation

As of Friday 5 May 2017, the paper £5 note has been officially withdrawn from circulation and is no longer legal tender. While banks, building societies and the Post Office are likely to accept these notes after this date, paper £5 notes can also be exchanged at the Bank of England, either in person or by post, for the new polymer note, which was introduced in September last year.

In light of these changes, crime prevention initiative Banknote Watch is providing businesses and members of the public alike with advice on how to identify legitimate polymer £5 notes. The Bank of England advises that while only a small proportion of notes are counterfeit – 0.0075% in 2015 – the new polymer notes have an array of security features that will make them even harder to forge. For one, there’s a large see-through window on the note with a clearly defined portrait of Her Majesty The Queen printed on it and the words ‘£5 Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge.

A finely detailed metallic image of the Elizabeth Tower is also positioned over the window. The foil is gold on the front of the note and silver on the back, creating a multi-coloured rainbow effect when tilted.

Other security features include a silver foil patch on the front of the note beneath the see-through window. When the note is tilted, the word ‘five’ changes to ‘pounds’ accompanied by a multi-coloured rainbow effect.

*A complete checklist of the security features can be found on the Bank of England’s website

Discussing the new notes, Victoria Cleland (chief cashier at the Bank of England) explained: “Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper banknotes. They provide enhanced counterfeit resilience, and I would strongly encourage everyone to learn about their exciting security features.”

Identified as stolen

While it’s important to be on the lookout for counterfeit notes, it’s also essential to take action if you come across a dye-stained note. A damaged note with staining on it is likely to be a stolen note, as dye-based systems are often incorporated into ATM machines or cash boxes. If cash boxes are forced open in a robbery, a coloured, liquid dye will be released, staining the notes and making them easy to identify as having been stolen.

The dye itself also contains a DNA solution, meaning the note can be traced back to its original location if returned to the police – a vital step in helping to catch criminals.

It’s very important for members of the public and businesses to hand dye-stained notes to a bank, building society or the Post Office. Staff will then provide a BEMN Form, which is used to return the banknotes to the Bank of England. The customer will then obtain a refund of the face value of the note, provided the note is genuine.

“It’s essential for everyone to understand that a stained note is probably a stolen note,” explained Hilaire O’Shea, national co-ordinator for Banknote Watch. “We’ve created guidelines for the public and retailers on the Banknote Watch website. By following the proper procedures and returning banknotes to a given bank, you’re playing an essential role in fighting this crime and aiding the police in identifying where the stolen note came from.”

*For more information about Banknote Watch visit

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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