Number of counterfeits in circulation in Germany largely unchanged

Rise in the number of counterfeit €50 banknotes, drop in counterfeit €20 notes

In the first half of 2016, the Bundesbank recorded approximately 45,700 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €2.3 million. This means that the number of counterfeits rose slightly (by 1.7%) compared with the second half of 2015. Statistically, this equates to around 11 counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany per year.

"The current counterfeit figures have remained virtually unchanged on the whole," said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, Member of the Deutsche Bundesbank’s Executive Board. "It is pleasing to note that since the introduction of the new €20 banknote of the Europa series in November 2015, there has been a significant decline in the number of counterfeits of this denomination," Thiele added.

Counterfeiting crime is focused on the €50 banknote, accounting for a share of around 58 percent. At the same time, the incidence of €20 counterfeits declined by more than 10 percentage points. It is expected that the number of counterfeit €50 banknotes will also decline once the new €50 banknote with its enhanced security features is brought into circulation from 4 April 2017 onwards.

The incidence of counterfeit euro banknotes in the first half of 2016 can be broken down as follows.

Share (rounded)0.8%5.4%26.8%57.8%6.6%1.5%1.1% 

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Banknotes should always be carefully checked 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 a combination of these various features that the authenticity of euro banknotes can be verified.

  • For example, 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
    • New "Europa series": the letters "BCE ECB EЦБ EZB EKP EKT EKB BĊE EBC" as well as a series of short lines on the left and right edges
  • 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.
  • In addition, the emerald number is visible on the left-hand side on the front of the new euro banknotes ("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.

Fewer counterfeit coins in circulation

In the first six months of 2016, 18,700 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments. This figure stood at around 20,000 in the previous six-month period. Statistically, this equates to around five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany per year.

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, and their incidence in the first six months of 2016 was as follows.

Coins50 cents€1€2Total
Share (rounded)5.8%16.5%77.7% 

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.

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.