How to spot if your £1 coin is a fake

pound coinsBayne Stanley/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

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.
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How to spot a fake

1. 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 do

If 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.

10 PHOTOS
The top 10 scams of 2011
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How to spot if your £1 coin is a fake

Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.

The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme

It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.

Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.

Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.

The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.

The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.

A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense

Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.

The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.

Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.

They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.

Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.

July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.

The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.

The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.

Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.

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