Fewer counterfeits in circulation Trend decline in counterfeit banknotes continues

In the first half of 2012, the Bundesbank detected approximately 19,000 counterfeit euro banknotes in German payments. This means that the number of counterfeits fell by 5% compared with the second half of 2011. This is equivalent, in unadjusted terms, to five counterfeit notes annually for every 10,000 inhabitants. The loss incurred as a result of counterfeit banknotes amounted to around €1.1 million. 

This declining trend in the number of counterfeits was also visible in 2011, when a total of around 39,000 counterfeit banknotes were recorded – the lowest annual figure since the introduction of the euro cash in 2002. 

“This positive trend can certainly be accredited to the work of the criminal investigation and law enforcement authorities, and their efforts in fighting counterfeit distributors in Germany”, said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, the Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for cash and payment systems. 

In the first half of 2012, the distribution of counterfeits across the various denominations was as follows.

Notes5€ 10€20€50€ 100€ 200€500€ Gesamt
Per cent1 %2 %41 %34 %15 %6 %1 % 100 %

The share of counterfeit €20 banknotes is now perceptibly higher than that of €50 notes.

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Despite the current decline in counterfeit money, banknotes should be checked carefully at all times, as counterfeits are not reimbursable. 

Checks should always include multiple security features, as a banknote can be identified as authentic only by examining a combination of the various features.

  • For example, raised print on the front of the banknotes (“BCE ECB EZB EKT EKP” near the top edge) can be identified by touch.
  • The watermark becomes visible in the unprinted area when the banknote is held against the light.
  • The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted.
  • On the back of the banknote, the glossy stripe (denominations up to €20) or the change in colour of the value numeral on the right-hand side (denominations from €50 upwards) can be checked by tilting the banknote.

When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine, for example a banknote withdrawn from an ATM.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 test result. It is therefore better to combine use of these tools with a check of other security features.

Fewer counterfeit coins

In the first half of 2012, approximately 22,000 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments. This figure had stood at around 25,000 in the previous six-month period. Annually, there are thus around five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany. 

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations and were distributed as follows in the first six months of 2012.

Coins50 Cent 1€2€Gesamt
Per Cent5 %15 %80 % 100 %

Checking coins for authenticity

Counterfeit euro coins can usually be distinguished from genuine coins only after a very thorough visual inspection. 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 have a colour which differs slightly 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 remain attracted to magnets but can be removed again with a minimum of 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 for 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 at "Internal Link".

In addition, information (in the form of brochures and posters) and a new interactive learning program entitled “Detecting Counterfeits” (Falschgeld erkennen) can be ordered from the Bundesbank free of charge. Information on this subject may be found at the Bundesbank's website, the European Central Bank's website or the German police force's website, all of which are updated regularly.

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.