Further decline in counterfeit banknotes in Germany

24.01.2020 | Deutsche Bundesbank DE

The Bundesbank registered approximately 55,200 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €3.3 million in 2019, representing a 5% decrease on the year. Statistically, this equates to seven counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants.

“There has been a further decline in the number of counterfeits thanks to the introduction of the new Europa series of banknotes with their enhanced anti-counterfeiting features,” commented Johannes Beermann, the Deutsche Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for overseeing cash management. “In particular, the number of counterfeit €50 banknotes has fallen significantly,” he noted.

The distribution of counterfeits across the denominations in 2019 was as follows.

Banknotes

Number

Share (rounded)

€5

526

1%

€10

2,397

4%

€20

13,463

24%

€50

31,028

56%

€100

5,003

9%

€200

1,299

2%

€500

1,443

3%

Gesamt

55,159

At around 27,600, the number of counterfeits detected in the second half of 2019 matched the figure for the first half of the year (27,600).

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Anyone can check banknotes themselves using the quick “feel, look, tilt” method. Counterfeit money is not eligible for replacement.

Several security features can be checked using this test.

  • Feel:
    • ­Banknote paper has a special texture. It feels crisp and firm. It is often possible to identify simple counterfeits just by feeling the banknote. However, to be on the safe side, we recommend checking other features as well.
    • Raised print on the front of the banknotes can be identified by touch, for example. Banknotes belonging to the Europa series show the letters “BCE ECB EЦБ EZB EKP EKT EKB BĊE EBC” (and “ESB” on denominations of €50 and above) across their top edge as well as a series of short lines on the left and right-hand edges.
  • Look:
    • When any banknote is held against the light, the watermark appears as a silhouetted image in the unprinted area. 
    • On denominations of €20 and above belonging to the Europa series, the upper section of the hologram contains a transparent window showing a portrait of Europa’s face.
  • Tilt:
    • ­The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted. Rainbow-coloured effects appear around the motifs.
    • An emerald number can also be seen on the bottom 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.
    • The €100 and €200 banknotes have been equipped with new and improved security features. The emerald number contains several euro symbols that change in size and colour. The hologram contains a satellite feature showing two euro symbols that move around the denomination number.

When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine.

Number of counterfeit coins significantly higher

In 2019, approximately 42,100 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments, compared with around 33,100 coins in the previous year. Statistically, this equates to five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, and their incidence in 2019 was as follows.

Coins

Number

Share (rounded)

50 cents

963

2%

€1

4,030

10%

€2

37,058

88%

Total

42,051

At roughly 22,300, the number of counterfeit coins detected in the second half of 2019 was higher than the figure registered in the first six months of the year (around 19,800).

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. Features that can be checked using magnifying glasses, counterfeit detector markers or ultraviolet lamps are also explained. However, these tools, which are often used in the commercial sector, should always be combined with a check of other security features. 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).

If you think you may have received a counterfeit banknote, please contact one of the Bundesbank’s 35 branches or your own bank; alternatively, you can send it to the Bundesbank’s counterfeit money unit. To ensure that important information concerning people who circulate counterfeits is not lost, you should immediately notify the police of clearly identifiable counterfeit banknotes and coins and hand these in to them.