Rise in the number of counterfeit banknotes detected by the Bundesbank

The Bundesbank registered approximately 63,000 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €3.3 million in 2014. Banks, retailers and the police authorities therefore removed a significantly greater number of counterfeit banknotes from circulation than in 2013, with the incidence of counterfeits rising by 63% on the year. "The incidence of counterfeits has risen significantly, but still remains at a low level", said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, the Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for cash management. Statistically, this equates to eight counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants. The chance of ever coming into contact with a counterfeit note is therefore very small: "Statistically, a person would have to live to the age of 1,250 to ever encounter a counterfeit banknote", said Mr Thiele.

The €50 note is a particular favourite among counterfeiters. "The year-on-year change was due primarily to a rise in the incidence of counterfeit €50 banknotes, which almost doubled in number", the Bundesbank announced. On the whole, counterfeit €20 and €50 banknotes accounted for more than 80% of the counterfeits detected in Germany. According to the Bundesbank, organised criminal gangs are to blame for the bulk of counterfeits: "These are known culprits, who have been bringing in counterfeits to Germany from southern Europe for many years now", explained Rainer Elm, Head of the Bundesbank's National Analysis Centre.

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced in a press release that the number of counterfeit banknotes has also risen throughout the euro area as a whole. According to this press release, "In the second half of 2014 a total of 507,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation – 44% up on the figure for the same period in 2013". When compared with the number of genuine euro banknotes in circulation, the proportion of counterfeits remains very low, however: in the second half of 2014, there were 16 billion genuine euro banknotes in circulation, compared with 507,000 counterfeit notes.

By contrast, there was a decline in the number of counterfeit coins in Germany. In 2014, the Bundesbank detected just under 46,000 counterfeit coins in German payments, compared with 52,000 coins in the previous year. There are thus around five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.

The incidence of counterfeit euro banknotes in Germany in 2014 can be broken down as follows. 

Share (rounded)1%4%36%46%8%3%2% 


Checking banknotes for authenticity

The Bundesbank advises that banknotes should be checked carefully at all times, as counterfeit money is not eligible for reimbursement. Counterfeits are easy to recognise if they are put to the "feel, look and tilt" test. 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, 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-cut test result. It is therefore better to combine use of these tools with a check of other security features.


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 remain 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 training by the Bundesbank

Through its branch network, the Bundesbank provides training courses free of charge to the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties. Participants are shown how to recognise counterfeits and they are given typical counterfeits to test using the "feel, look and tilt" method. Contact details for the branches can be found on the Bundesbank's website and via the link further down this page. 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).