The Royal Mint has revealed that the number of fake pound coins has almost doubled in the last ten years, and now there are about 44 million counterfeits in circulation.
Anyone using one of these fakes (whether they know about it or not) is breaking the law, so how can you protect yourself and spot a fake?
It's hard to spot a fake in a handful of change. In some instances the edge isn't properly ridged, or the colour looks different, so you have a chance to reject it before accepting your change. In other cases, the forgery is more convincing, so you may not spot it until it is rejected by a vending machine, designed to spot irregularities.
However, others are good enough to fool these machines, so it's worth knowing the five signs to check.
How to spot a fake1. Do they match up?
It's worth checking that the date and the design on the reverse match. The design changes every year, and in many cases, forgeries have the wrong one for the year it is claiming to have been made in. It's not something you're likely to want to memorise, but there is a guide on the Royal Mint website.
2. The lettering is wrong
The lettering on the edge of the coin changes every year, so it's worth checking whether they match - again there's a guide on the website.
3. The designs are not sharp or well defined
In some cases the designs on the head and tail of the coin is not properly defined, in other cases it's the ridges or the lettering on the side. Don't assume it is just worn down, these are key signs of a forgery.
4. Out of synch
When you look at the coin, the designs on the front and back may not be aligned or appear slightly off.
5. Use your common sense
There are also forgeries that can be spotted using common sense. So, for example, if you get a coin that's supposedly a few years old and yet it looks shiny and new there's a good chance it is a recent forgery. Some are also not quite the right colour.
What to doIf you think you have a fake, the official advice is to hand it into the local police station. You won't get any money in return, so it may be tempting to hand the coin over to the next unsuspecting shop owner instead. However, this is illegal, and unless the police receive counterfeit coins they are unable to investigate them.
So what do you think? Could you spot a fake? And would you hand it in? Let us know in the comments.