Fewer counterfeits in circulation

Downward trend in counterfeit banknotes continues

In 2017, the Bundesbank registered approximately 73,000 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €4.1 million, which represents an 11% decrease year on year. Statistically, this equates to nine counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants.

"The introduction of the Europa series with improved protection against counterfeiting has led to lower incidence of counterfeits. In particular, the number of counterfeit €20 banknotes has been reduced significantly," said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for cash management. "There has also already been a slight decline in the number of forged €50 notes in circulation".

For 2017, the distribution of counterfeits across the denominations was as follows:

NotesNumberShare (rounded)
€55451 %
€101,3072 %
€2015,56621 %
€5047,75065 %
€1005,6478 %
€2006341 %
€5001,4322 %
Total72,881

Fewer counterfeits (around 33,200 banknotes) were detected in the second half of 2017 than in the first half of the year (39,700).

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Banknotes should always be checked carefully using the "feel, look and tilt" method, as counterfeit money is not eligible for reimbursement.

  • A number of different security features should always be checked, as it is only through the combination of these various features that the authenticity of euro banknotes can be verified.
  • Raised print on the front of the banknotes can be identified by touch.

    • First euro banknote series: the letters "BCE ECB EZB EKT EKP" near the top edge
    • Europa series of banknotes: the letters "BCE ECB EЦБ EZB EKP EKT EKB BĊE EBC" (and "ESB" on denominations of €50 above) as well as a series of short lines on the left and right-hand edges
  • The watermark appears as a silhouetted image in the unprinted area when the banknote is held against the light. The upper section of the hologram contains a transparent window (denominations of €20 and above) displaying a portrait of Europa.
  • The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted.
  • On the reverse side of the banknotes of the first series, the value numeral on the right-hand side changes from red to green (denominations of €50 and above) when the banknote is tilted.
  • An emerald number can be seen on the left-hand side on the front of the banknotes belonging to the Europa series. When the banknote is tilted, the emerald number changes colour and the effect of a light stripe moving up and down becomes visible.

When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine, such as a banknote withdrawn from an ATM.

Checking banknotes using a magnifying glass, counterfeit detector marker or an ultraviolet lamp does not always produce a clear-cut test result. It is therefore better to combine the use of these tools with a check of other security features.

Slightly fewer counterfeit coins

In 2017, approximately 32,500 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments, compared with around 33,000 coins in the previous year. Statistically, this equates to four counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, and their incidence in 2017 was as follows.

CoinsNumberShare (rounded)
50 cents1,2974%
€14,10513%
€227,10683%
Total32,508

At roughly 14,000, the number of counterfeit coins in the second half of 2017 was lower than the figure registered in the first six months of the year (around 18,500).

Checking coins for authenticity

The following pointers can make it easier to identify genuine coins.

  • On genuine euro coins, the motif stands out clearly from the background of the coin. By contrast, the image on counterfeit coins often appears blurred, and the surface of the coins may be uneven.

  • Counterfeits generally differ slightly in colour from genuine coins.

  • The edge inscriptions of genuine €2 coins are sharp. Those on counterfeit coins are frequently incomplete or irregular.

  • Genuine €1 and €2 coins are only slightly magnetic. They are attracted to magnets but can be removed again with very little effort. Counterfeit coins, on the other hand, are usually either non-magnetic or are strongly attracted to magnets.

Counterfeit prevention

Through its branch network, the Bundesbank provides training courses free of charge to the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties. Participants are given typical counterfeits to test using the “feel, look and tilt” method. Contact details for the branches may be found on the Bundesbank's website.

In addition, information (in the form of brochures and posters) can be ordered from the Bundesbank free of charge. An interactive learning program entitled "Detecting counterfeits" (Falschgeld erkennen) can also be accessed online (German only).

Information on this subject is updated regularly on the Bundesbank's website, the European Central Bank's website, and on the German police force's website (German only).

To ensure that important information concerning people who pass counterfeits is not lost, the Bundesbank strongly advises you to immediately notify the police of counterfeit banknotes and coins and to hand these in to the police.