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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Did you Know Series (18): Identification of Rupees 500 Fake Notes: Are you carrying a fake Rs.500 Banknote in your purse/wallet ?:

Did you Know Series (18):
Identification of Rupees 500 Fake Notes:
 Are you carrying a fake Rs.500 Banknote in your purse/wallet ?:

Identification of Rupees 500 Fake Notes:

 Are you carrying a fake Rs.500 Banknote in your purse/wallet ?:

Two days ago, I received visit from Jayant, right in the middle of the afternoon.Both of us being avidly interested in all kinds of Currency and Coins, we spent the next few hours examining the differences between Rs.500 genuine Banknotes and fake ones. 

On examination of genuine and fake Banknotes, one comes across certain features that are not mentioned even on the Reserve Bank of India website, which are shared here for the benefit of every Indian currency user to guard against counterfeit currency.

If you have got  curious enough, then please, read on further:

The above scans are a comparison of the Front and Back of two Banknotes, which prima facie look very much alike. Can you guess which one is the real Banknote and which one is a fake? Probably not, when I place the following "evidence" before you:

Similarities in both the Banknotes:

- Both Banknotes are patterned on the “Mahatma Gandhi Series” of Banknotes. (Remember that the earlier “M.K.Gandhi Series” of Banknotes was superseded by this Series issued by Reserve Bank of India, when it was found that the Rs.500/- Banknote had been duplicated by counterfeiters in several “clever to crude forgeries” detected in the late 1980s-1990s).

- Both the Banknotes have been signed by D. Subba Rao, till recently the RBI Governor. There is no discrepancy in his signature in both the Banknotes.

- There is a Mahatma Gandhi watermark with a light and shade effect and multidirectional lines in the water-mark window, in both the Banknotes. 

- Security threads, just right of centre and to the left of the Mahatma Gandhi portrait, are there in both the Banknotes. On both Banknotes, you can read “Bharat” (in Hindi), and “RBI” alternately. When you hold the Banknotes against the light, the security threads can be seen as one continuous line. (Incidentally, Banknotes, issued prior to this Mahatma Gandhi Series have plain non-readable fully embedded security threads or no security threads depending on their vintage). 

This type of Security threads were introduced for the first time in Rs.1000 Banknotes in October 2000. All other denominations above Rs.5 carry readable, fully embedded windowed security threads with the inscriptions “Bharat” and “RBI”.

-  There is a latent image on this Banknote on this Face where a vertical band on the right side of the Mahatma Gandhi portrait the denominational value “500” is shown in numerals. This latent image is visible only when the Banknote is held horizontally at eye level. This feature is very much there in both the Banknotes

(Incidentally similar latent images showing the denominational value of the Banknotes are present in Banknote denominations of Rs.1000, Rs.100, Rs. 50, and Rs.20 as well).

-Micro-lettering is seen in both the Banknotes appearing between the vertical band and the Mahatma Gandhi portrait. It contains the word “RBI” and the numerals “500”. This feature is present in both the Banknotes.

-Intaglio or raised Printing has been introduced in all Banknotes of Rs.20 and above.  The portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, the RBI seal, guarantee and promise clause, Asoka Pillar (Capitol) emblem on the left bottom are all printed in intaglio on both the Banknotes.

- An intaglio identification mark of a “Circle” for the visually challenged persons present in all Rs.500 Banknotes of this Series. This feature is there on both the Banknotes. 

- Fluorescence: The number panels of the Banknotes are printed in fluorescent ink. The Banknotes also have optic fibres. Both these Banknotes exhibit these features. 

- See through Register: A small floral design is printed on the front (hollow) and back (filled up) of the Banknote in the middle of the vertical band next to the watermark has an accurate back to back registration. The design appears floral when seen against the light. This feature is there on both the Banknotes.

- Optically variable Ink which is in the nature of a colour-shifting ink is provided for on the Banknotes in the denominations of Rs.1000 and Rs.500. This colour of Rs. 1000 and Rs.500 Banknotes appears green when the Banknote is held flat but changes to blue when the Note is held at an angle. This feature is visible on Both Banknotes on first sight, but a variation is discussed in the next portion of this post.

- Printing paper: The quality of the Paper on which both the Banknotes are printed is identical and very difficult to differentiate unless a careful and focussed approach is adopted.

- Eurion Constellation circles/dots which appear in the background of the Front face and in a vertical Band on the Back of the Banknotes as a security feature to prevent scanning of Banknotes on new printers appear on both Banknotes.

-Year of printing on one Banknote mentioned on the Back is 2009 and on the other it is mentioned as 2010. This feature has been introduced in all Banknotes from 2005 onwards. 
Dissimilarities between the two Banknotes:

While at first glance both Banknotes appear to be identical in every way, there are some differences between them:

-On the Front when you look at the watermark window against the light, on the Banknote bearing the Serial number 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset),  the Mahatma Gandhi watermark appears to have an elongated face of Mahatma Gandhi, not consistent with the Mahatma Gandhi watermark on regular/genuine issues (Printing error or counterfeit?).

- Again, on the Front, the Security Thread on the Banknote with the Serial No. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset) appears to have shifted a little to the left than the Banknote with the Serial No.1DA 100091 (with an “E” Inset), which a user may not notice at first glance (printing error or counterfeit?). 

- On the Back, there is a faint shadow of the vertical Security thread on the Banknote issued in 2009, while there are two darker Security lines on the Banknote printed in 2010 (printing error or counterfeit?). 

The signature of RBI Governor D. Subbarao, the Guarantee Clause, the numeral denomination, et al seem to have overlapped onto the Security Thread of the Banknote bearing the Serial number No. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset) which is not the case in the other Note (printing error or counterfeit?)

- If you see Mahatma Gandhi’s followers at the back proceeding on the Dandi March, then after the woman’s figure, the face of the second male follower appears distorted/elongated, which again cannot be made out by a user at first glance (Printing error or counterfeit?).

-The colour and printing of the Banknote bearing the year of issue 2009 is sharper and darker than the Banknote bearing the date 2010 on both the Sides/Faces (Printing error or counterfeit?).

- When the Banknote bearing the date 2010 is held up against the light, the colour of the Banknote remains green and does not change to blue, suggesting that Optically Variable Ink has not been used on it (Printing error or counterfeit?). 

Under the UV Ray lamp:

Clinching evidence indicating the counterfeit Banknote:

If the two Banknotes are placed side by side under a UV Ray Lamp  the following interesting discrepancies:
-The Security Thread on Banknote Serial no. Serial No.1DA 100091 (with an “E” Inset) showed the vertical Security thread with lighted up “-” shaped markers, while the Banknote bearing Serial No. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset) showed a completely dark Security Thread with a parallel line showing the lighted up “-” markers only. This explains why there were two parallel lines on the Back of the Banknote bearing Serial No. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset).  It is amply clear that this one is the counterfeit Banknote. The counterfeiters could not replicate/get their hands on the optically variable Ink, therefore, they found a via media to fool gullible users who are examining the Banknote under a UV Ray lamp/pen. This also explains why two parallel dark “Security threads” were there on the Back of the Banknote bearing Serial No. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset).
- The next tell-tale clue are the optic fibres which look like microscopic “bacteria”. Here again, the optic fibres exhibit one colour only in Banknote with the Serial no. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset), whereas the other Banknote exhibits multi-coloured fibres which is the RBI approved colour scheme . Very clearly, the Banknote with Serial No. 3BV 429920 is a very clever forgery, but the counterfeiters could not duplicate the optic fibre colour scheme.

- Also, you can clearly see under the UV Ray light that the Banknote with Serial No. 3BV 429920 (with an “R” Inset), has a slightly smaller/cramped numeral “500” as well as the words “Paanch Sau Rupiye” (in Hindi) because they tried their best to avoid any overlapping on the “Security Thread” on the counterfeit Banknote, a task in which they have failed miserably. They were, nevertheless secure in the knowledge, that quite a few of the regular Banknotes also have such overlaps in their designs, because of Print Shifts when the Banknotes are being printed.

- The counterfeiters used a 2010 year as the year of issue because they did not want to use a Printing Block with a “Re” symbol or perhaps they have not perfected one yet.

The undernoted images are of a Banknote of the earlier "M.K. Gandhi Series" which was superseded by the "Mahatma Gandhi Series" of Banknotes displayed/mentioned above. You can see that putting these Banknotes under the UV Ray Lamp was not of much help as very few security features were incorporated therein.

Legal Provisions against counterfeiting: 

Printing and circulation of forged Banknotes are offences under Sections 489A to 489E of the Indian Penal Code and punishable in the courts of law by fine or imprisonment or both.

Such “clever” to “crude” forgeries in higher denomination Banknotes have again emerged in Indian circulating Rupee currency.

The RBI has only added the Re symbol to the “new design” Rupee Banknotes issued from 2011 onwards as a counter-measure, but have not taken any comprehensive steps  to strengthen other Security features on circulating Banknotes on an on-going basis, leading to this dangerous position. This is evident from the fact that the information provided on their website has not been upgraded/updated for a very long time to educate the users of any further steps taken by RBI to strengthen Banknote security features on an on-going basis and to prevent counterfeiting !!

The Security features in the higher denomination Banknotes i.e. Rs.500 and Rs.1000, again, need to be reassessed/revisited and revamped by the Reserve Bank of India, like the US Federal Reserve has restrengthened the Security features and design on the $100 Bill to keep the counterfeiters at bay and “raise the bar” for them.

Posted on 23.01.2014:

Reserve Bank of India has now decided to withdraw all currency notes issued prior to 2005, without specifically mentioning that these Banknotes will cease to be legal tender. From April 2014 all Banks will accept and exchange pre-2005 Banknotes. These Banknotes are easily identified by the absence of the year of printing on the Back of the Note. RBI estimates that the maximum number of fake currency Banknotes are from the period prior to 2005. From 01.07.2014, to exchange more than 10 pieces of Rs.500/- and Rs.1000/- banknotes, non-customers will have to furnish identity and address proof to the Bank Branch.  However, it is expected that later on RBI will issue a communication advising users the final date upto which Banknotes prior to 2005 will be accepted by the Bank. 

Therefore, please start examining the year of issue"at the back of the currency Notes passing through your hands, so as not to face the inconvenience of going to a Bank Branch for returning the currency issued prior to 2005.

While this is a welcome step, RBI needs to have a policy in place to take the remaining counterfeit Banknotes issued after 2005 (like the one above), like changing/revamping the Front and Back designs, adding more effective security features etc. so as not to put users at risk of accepting counterfeit currency Banknotes.

P.S. This article was also carried in the State Bank of India's Pensioner's Association Magazine "SAMVAD" (meaning "Dialogue") in its December 2013 issue at the undernoted link (Pages 14-16):

Links to other posts on Indian Currency denominations on this blog:


  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented on 08.12.13:
    "Very keen observation with minute details how to find 'fake' currency Note. Thanks for sharing it".

  2. Thank you so much for your constant encouragement.

  3. Alok Misra has commented on 09.12.13:
    "It is excellent...
    But going thru ur own wallet, gives shivers if some notes turn out be fake....


  4. These security checks at the back of one's mind will help a currency user to prevent being handed over any fake Banknotes in the first place. The RBI list of possible fake banknote numbers is quite old. It seems the counterfeiters are somewhat ahead. If you do come across any "fake" Notes during your "travels", in any denomination, please do send me photos of both sides for my blog!! (:-)

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    1. Thank you Rohit for visiting the Blog.