SHOP owners in Staffordshire have reported a flood of “fake” fivers, only to be told by the Bank of England that they are genuine.
The response has raised fears that the supposedly tougher, new £5 notes, which were only launched a little over three years ago, are not as hardy as they should be.
The Bank of England has taken the unusual step of issuing a statement trying to reassure Stoke residents and traders.
It said that the hundreds of “phoney” notes are actually genuine money which has suffered “wear and tear”.
The bank added that its experts have examined the notes and found they are damaged rather than fraudulent.
It said that the issue may have been caused by cash going through the washing machine on a high temperature.
A Bank of England spokesman said: “Polymer notes are stronger than paper notes and last longer in usual day-to-day use but they are not indestructible.
“In some cases this has resulted in the foil Elizabeth Tower being removed.
“These notes are damaged genuine banknotes, not counterfeits, and a lot of other security features remain intact such as the Queen’s portrait in the window and the micro-lettering.
“Our advice would be to check on the website and familiarise yourself with how to check those security features.”
The new-style polymer £5 notes were issued in September 2016 and were designed to last twice as long as paper notes and to be harder to counterfeit.
The ‘plastic’ £10 note was released in 2017 and the £20 note is set to be released next month.
HOW TO EXCHANGE WORN FIVE POUND NOTES
IF you have a note that is looking worse for wear, you should be able to exchange it
The Bank of England says that it will reimburse you with the face value of the note, as lomh as you still have at least half of it.
To apply for a reimbursement you need to fill out a damaged banknote application form and send it to the BOE with all of the remains of the note.
It recommends that you send high-value claims by Royal Mail special delivery to the following address: The Manager, Dept MN, Bank of England, King Street, Leeds, LS1 1HT.
Banknotes cannot be replaced or returned in person.
If you need to claim for more than £1,000 worth of notes you will need to provide identification and proof of address.
David Morrey, co-owner of Ravenous Cafe in Smallthorne, Stoke, who rejected three £5 notes before midday on Wednesday, was shocked to hear the notes are real.
He said: “I had three within an hour on Wednesday and another three the same day. There is no way people are washing that many £5 notes in Smallthorne. I do not believe it.
“I thought the idea of these £5 notes was that they would not fade or nick. I don’t understand why the print rubs off on some of them.
“You rub on some and they are like a scratch card. It just comes off so easily. The £5 notes need to be redesigned. Someone needs to do a bit more thinking about it.”
Paul Clarke, a co-owner of Household Discounts across the road from Ravenous Cafe, reports that he received over £100 worth of the faded notes in a week.
He said: “Someone from the police came in and told me they weren’t fake. I couldn’t believe it.
“I went to the bank with worst one yesterday morning to double check and they also told me it was real and the damage was just wear and tear.
“Sooner or later we’ll be walking round with plain plastic – the print rubs off that easily.
“They’re going to start the £20 notes soon… the Bank of England needs to sort out its manufacturing issues first.
“You think they would know how to print money that doesn’t rub off.”
Staffordshire Police agreed with the Bank of England that the cash is genuine, but a spokesperson also warned people to be on their guard for fake notes.
He said: “Based on conversations with the Bank of England, the notes in question appear to be damaged genuine notes and not counterfeits.
“The notes contain a range of security features, so if one or more is damaged, there will be others you can check.
“If the public believe they have passed counterfeit currency they should report the incident as soon as possible.
“Anyone with information about people using, supplying or making counterfeit currency should contact 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
How to change old £5 and £10 notes for cash – with over 212million old notes still in circulation.
A cut in interest rates is looking increasingly likely after inflation fell to a three year low last month.