More counterfeit money registered than last year
The Bundesbank registered more counterfeit money in 2022 than in the previous year. In total, just over 44,100 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €2.7 million were withdrawn from circulation in Germany, representing a 5.2% increase on the year.
“Counterfeit numbers went up slightly in 2022. This is likely due to the fact that the coronavirus restrictions of the two previous years were largely set aside and events like fairs and Christmas markets – where cash is the predominant mode of payment – took place once more,” said Burkhard Balz, the Bundesbank’s Executive Board member responsible for cash management.
Rise in number of counterfeit €100 and €200 banknotes
Significant increases were recorded in the number of counterfeited €100 and €200 banknotes, as there were a number of cases where counterfeit cash had been used to pay for high-value goods. As a result, the volume of losses entailed by fake banknotes was much higher than in 2021 – €2.7 million compared with €1.9 million. Overall, however, the volume of counterfeit banknotes remains very low: statistically speaking, there were just five counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants in 2022.
As in previous years, “movie money” makes up the biggest share of counterfeits. These are basic printed counterfeits without security features, for use in film and theatre.
The distribution of counterfeits across the denominations was as follows.
At around 24,400, the number of counterfeits detected in the second half of 2022 was higher than the figure for the first half of the year (19,800).
Number of counterfeit coins in Germany also up
Around 73,400 counterfeit coins were detected in 2022 in the German payment system, compared with 41,100 in 2021. In purely mathematical terms, this means that there were roughly nine counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany per year. The most frequently counterfeited denomination was the €2 coin with a share of 89%. The huge increase was mainly due to a number of special cases where businesses had collected suspected counterfeit coins over a period of years and then submitted them to the Bundesbank in 2022.
Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, and their incidence was as follows.
At roughly 40,800, the number of counterfeit coins detected in the second half of 2022 was significantly higher than the figure registered in the first six months of the year (around 32,600).
Slight rise in incidence of counterfeit money in the euro area
In 2022, the incidence of counterfeits in the euro area was slightly up on the previous year. In total, 376,000 counterfeit banknotes were recorded – 29,000 more (+8.4%) than in 2021.
Fake €50 notes accounted for roughly 40% of registered counterfeits, while €20 counterfeits occupied second place at 23.6%. Losses caused by counterfeits in the euro area came to €21.5 million, which was higher than the figure of €17.5 million recorded in 2021. Counterfeit money stemming from Germany accounted for just 11.7% of the total figure for the euro area.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.