IT passes in and out of our hands every day. But how closely do we take a look at our cash as we buy and sell?
Over the last few weeks detectives have received reports of a number of instances where counterfeit £20 notes have been passed as genuine currency.
Businesses in Seaham, Murton, Peterlee and Shotton Colliery have been targeted, and there have also been incidents in Easington and Durham.
Police have already arrested three men, who have been bailed pending further inquiries, and seized money which has been sent off for analysis.
Officers say although these instances are rare, businesses and members of the public are advised to be vigilant.
The Bank of England believes one of the factors involved in the motivation behind the fraud is the £20 denomination is the note with the greatest circulation, while £50 has a relatively small circulation and is therefore more likely to come under closer scrutiny.
And passing familiar, higher value notes is more lucrative, too.
Police say the UK has a large number level of serious, organised criminals involved in producing the notes on a national level.
North East officers say counterfeits are readily identified by checking a number of security features present on genuine bank notes and which are either absent or poorly imitated in the fakes.
Detective Constable Barry Johnson, of Peterlee CID, said: “We would advise people not to rely on just one security feature if they are passed a suspect note.
“It can often be helpful to check the note against one that is known to be genuine – the difference will be obvious.
“If anyone comes into possession of counterfeit notes they should contact the police and note details of the description of the person involved and any car they may be using.
“Likewise, if anyone has information about persons passing counterfeit notes or coins or involved in making them we would urge them to contact us.”
Police Community Support Officer Kelly Taylor is among officers working to alert businesses to the issue as she and her colleagues work on plans to launch a Shopwatch scheme on her beat in Peterlee town centre.
She said: “We’re going to be dropping in leaflets and pens as we’re going round to encourage them to join Shopwatch.
“We’ll be asking people to keep an eye out and make sure the shopkeepers are better informed so they are aware of what to look out for.”
The Bank of England says the majority of counterfeits are discovered by the banking system during a sorting process.
Last year, it removed 300,000 notes with a face value of £59million from circulation, almost a 50 per cent drop from the previous year.
The bank, which trains finance staff, shop workers and shoppers how to spot the dodgy tender and works alongside the country’s law enforcement agencies, says most fakes are removed quickly, often after a single use.
Incidents involving counterfeit notes in County Durham can be reported to Durham Constabulary on 0345 60 60 365 and on Wearside to Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043, while information can be passed on anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Further information on security features can be found online at www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes @EchoEastDurham