Counterfeit Detection Guide

Could you spot a counterfeit banknote?

Always check a range of features – don't rely on only one or two.

It can be useful to compare a suspect banknote with one you know is genuine and look for differences.

All Australian banknotes have similar security features, though their location can vary on the banknote.

$50 banknote showing enlarged coat of arms, clear window and star.

1 – Is it plastic?

Australian banknotes are printed on plastic and have a distinct feel. A suspect banknote may feel excessively thick or thin compared to a genuine banknote. It is difficult to start a tear along the edge of a genuine banknote. You can also try scrunching the banknote in your hand – a genuine banknote should spring back.

2 – Look for the Coat of Arms

If you hold the banknote to the light, you should see the Australian Coat of Arms.

3 – Look for the star

Diamond-shaped patterns are printed inside a circle on both sides of the banknote. If you hold the banknote up to the light, the patterns should line up perfectly to form a seven-pointed star.

4 – Check the clear window

The clear window should be an integral part of the banknote and not an addition. Check that the white image printed on the window cannot be easily rubbed off. Also look for the embossing – there is a wave pattern in the window of the $10 banknote, and the value of the banknote in the windows of $20, $50 and $100 banknotes.

Other security features

Other security features to check if you suspect a banknote might be counterfeit:

An example of microprint.

5 – Feel the dark printing

It is produced with a special raised ink that can be felt with your finger.

6 – Check the print quality

The background printing should be sharp. Check for irregularities such as less clearly defined patterns, thicker or thinner lines, or colour differences.

7 – Look for the microprinting

Under a magnifying glass you will see tiny, clearly defined words on the top left corner of the $5 banknote and near the portraits on the other banknotes.

An example of text glowing under a UV light.

8 – Look at the banknote under UV light

Most of the banknote should not fluoresce. The exceptions are the serial numbers, a patch on the $5 banknote and a patch on the $20, $50 and $100 banknotes that also shows the value (e.g. 50).

Common myths about banknotes

Myth

Banknotes without the printed name below the portrait are counterfeit.

Fact

A banknote without the name of the person below the portrait is not necessarily counterfeit. Printed names were added to Australian banknotes from 2002. This was done to help the public identify the people that our banknotes feature.

To determine the year a banknote was produced, look at the first two numerals of the serial number e.g. 99 means the banknote was printed in 1999, while 03 means the banknote was printed in 2003.

Myth

The Governor's signature is always above the Secretary to the Treasury's.

Fact

The order of the signatures on Australian banknotes was changed in 2002. Since then, the Governor's signature has been printed above that of the Secretary to the Treasury.

Dealing with suspect banknotes

It is an offence to knowingly possess counterfeit banknotes. Suspect banknotes should be given to State or Federal police. If they prove to be genuine banknotes, you will receive full value for them.

If you come across a banknote that you suspect is counterfeit:

  • Handle the suspect banknote as little as possible and store it in an envelope.
  • Note any relevant information, such as how it came into your possession.
  • Report the matter immediately to State or Federal police.

You are well within your rights to refuse to accept a banknote if you have concerns about it.

Under no circumstances should you take actions that may jeopardise your safety or that of others.

For more information

Call: 1800 633 220
8.30 am – 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday
Email: banknotes@rba.gov.au

Counterfeit Detection Guide 754KB