Confusion over fake currency is leading some members of the public to throw genuine pound coins into the bin, it has been claimed.
A warning was issued by police recently urging people to beware of fake coins that do not have a ring of dots normally found around the circumference of the £1 coin.
However, some genuine 2008 and 2009 £1 coins do not have this ring of dots. The Belfast Telegraph first reported on the confusion over the fake and genuine pound coins in December.
One north Belfast woman told how her mother had thrown good currency out with the rubbish because she believed the coins were counterfeit.
The Rathcoole resident said: “A lot of people, especially the elderly, have no way of knowing and will just throw good money away. For those on low incomes or a pension it’s just not fair”.
Royal Mint spokesman Kevin Clancy said fake coins may be darker in colour and the heads and tails could be non-symmetrical. He added that while the ring of dots was “a real red-herring” when it comes to spotting a dud coin, there are a number of factors that can help in picking out the fakes.
“If you are given a £1 coin in your change, without even thinking you're instinctively assessing a range of factors — its weight, its diameter and colour,” Mr Clancy said.
“The most obvious thing to look out for is the colour, as the weight is probably not going to be a deciding factor.
“Counterfeit coins tend to be darker — look more closely at the lettering around the edge which will be more crudely rendered.”
Mr Clancy said the lettering might be more crude than on a genuine coin and it may show little sign of ageing even after supposedly having been in circulation for several years. Consumers are also advised to make sure the Queen’s head isn’t out of alignment with the reverse image — another indication that a coin is fake.
A spokesman for the Ulster Bank acknowledged it was difficult for the untrained eye to detect counterfeits.
“Ulster Bank is aware of some confusion which may have been caused by the issue of The Royal Mint's 2008 and 2009 £1 coins,” he said. “These coins have some different features to previous coins, but are legal tender and are accepted by Ulster Bank.”
Cathal Austin, general manager of The Quays shopping centre in Newry, said traders weren’t finding the issue particularly problematic.
“We haven’t had much evidence here of fake coins, although one or two retailers have refused them,” he said.