Fewer counterfeits in Germany

Trend decline observed in the second half of 2010 continues
In the first six months of 2011, the Bundesbank detected 18,852 counterfeit euro banknotes in German payment transactions. This means that the number of counterfeits declined by 28 percent compared with the second half of 2010, when 26,298 counterfeit notes were detected. The loss incurred as a result of counterfeit banknotes amounted to just under €1.1 million.

“The declining trend in the number of counterfeits is a very pleasing development,” Carl-Ludwig Thiele, Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for cash and payment systems, commented. “Given that, in statistical terms, there are only five counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants per year in Germany, the likelihood of citizens coming into contact with counterfeit money is very small, especially as retailers are the main victims of counterfeits,” Mr Thiele added. Nevertheless, he advises the general public to remain vigilant: “With a bit of practice, counterfeits can be detected quickly and reliably. To this end, the Bundesbank offers free-of-charge training courses, particularly to retailers.”

In the first half of 2011, the distribution of counterfeits across the various denominations was as follows.

Table counterfeit banknotes
Notes5€ 10€20€50€ 100€ 200€500€ Total
%1 %2 %31 %45 %16 %5 %0 % 

The overall decline in counterfeits in circulation in Germany is due, in particular, to the fall in the number of counterfeit €50 and €100 notes. The incidence of counterfeit €20 notes remained virtually unchanged, however. Nevertheless, the €50 note remains the most frequently counterfeited denomination in Germany.  

Recognising counterfeit banknotes
Banknotes should be checked carefully at all times, as counterfeit money is not eligible for reimbursement.

Checks should always include several 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 colour-changing number (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 six months of 2011, 27,480 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments. This figure had stood at 33,800 in the previous six-month period.

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations and were distributed as follows in the first six months of 2011.

Table Counterfeit euro coins
Coins50 cent 1€2€Total
%6 %17 %77 % 

Check 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 slightly different 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 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 offers training courses for the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties free of charge. Participants are given typical counterfeits to test using the “feel, look and tilt” method. Contact details for the branches may be found at http://www.bundesbank.de/hv/hv.en.php.

In addition, information (in the form of brochures, CD-ROMs and posters) and, for retailers, the interactive learning programme entitled “Detecting Counterfeits” (Falschgeld erkennen) can be ordered from the Bundesbank free of charge. Information on this subject may be found on the Bundesbank’s website (http://www.bundesbank.de/bargeld/bargeld_falschgeld.en.php),
the European Central Bank's website (http://www.ecb.europa.eu/euro/banknotes/security/html/index.en.html)
or the German police force's website (http://www.propk.de/themen-und-tipps/betrug/falschgeld.html) (available in 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.