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Counterfeit money in circulation back up slightly

Counterfeit money in circulation back up slightly

In the first half of 2019, the Bundesbank recorded approximately 27,600 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €1.6 million. This represents an increase of 2.5% compared with the second half of 2018. “Statistically, this equates to around seven counterfeit banknotes for every 10,000 inhabitants per year,” said Bundesbank Executive Board member Johannes Beermann.

Fewer counterfeit €50 notes

However, the introduction of the new €50 banknote with enhanced security features seems to be having an impact. Even though the €50 banknote remains particularly popular among counterfeiters, counterfeits of this note have continued to decline. They accounted for 65% of counterfeit banknotes, down from around 72% in the second half of 2018.

The table below shows the distribution of counterfeits across the various denominations in the first half of 2019.

Banknotes

Number

Share (rounded)

€5

188

1%

€10

421

1%

€20

5,956

22%

€50

17,905

65%

€100

2,232

8%

€200

281

1%

€500

596

2%

Total

27,579

Around 87% of all recorded counterfeits were concentrated on the €20 and €50 banknote denominations. Overall, the incidence of counterfeits in Germany remains low.

“We expect the volume of counterfeits to fall in the second half of 2019 as the criminal investigation authorities have recently made significant headway in apprehending a number of international counterfeiting rings,” Mr Beermann continued.

Increase in the number of counterfeit coins

The number of counterfeit coins in Germany increased by around 23% compared with the previous six-month period. In the first half of 2019, approximately 19,800 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments, compared with around 16,100 counterfeit coins in the second half of 2018. Statistically, this equates to around five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany per year. The €2 coin accounted for the bulk of all counterfeit coins at 87%.

Counterfeits were identified only in the three highest denominations, and their incidence in the first six months of 2019 was as follows:

Coins

Number

Share (rounded)

50 cents

427

2%

€1

2,139

11%

€2

17,237

87%

Total

19,803

Fewer counterfeit banknotes in the euro area

Fewer counterfeit banknotes in the euro area

According to information from the European Central Bank (ECB), the overall number of counterfeit banknotes recorded in the euro area has fallen and likewise remains at a low level. Some 251,000 counterfeit banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the first half of 2019. This represents a decline of 4.2% compared with the second half of 2018. Around 82% of all recorded counterfeits were €20 or €50 banknotes. The losses to the euro area as a result of counterfeit money were down from €14 million in the second half of last year to €13.5 million in the first half of this year.

To make it harder to counterfeit money, the ECB has been working with the Eurosystem national central banks to continually enhance the security of euro banknotes over the past few years. These efforts have been helped by the new €100 and €200 notes, which were introduced in all 19 euro area Member States on 28 May 2019.

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Anyone can check banknotes themselves using the quick “feel-look-tilt” test. 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 (Exception: €5 and €10 notes are coated and therefore feel smooth 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.

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

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.

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