Rise in the number of counterfeit banknotes in Germany

In the first half of 2015, the Bundesbank registered approximately 50,500 counterfeit euro banknotes with a value of €2.2 million. This means that the number of counterfeits rose by 31% compared with the second half of 2014. "Despite this rise, the incidence of counterfeits in Germany remains low", said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, the Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for cash management.

Conterfeit euro banknotes in Germany by denomination

The Bundesbank checks around 15 billion banknotes per year. On an annual basis, there were 12 counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants in statistical terms. The chance of ever coming into contact with a counterfeit note is therefore very small: "Statistically, a person would have to live for over 800 years to ever encounter a counterfeit banknote," said Thiele.

Despite this, Thiele stressed the importance of further strengthening the joint efforts of the police and the Eurosystem in combatting counterfeits. The new Europa series was also helping, he added, as it was equipped with significantly improved protection against counterfeiting. He went on to explain that the new €5 and €10 banknotes had already been introduced and the new €20 banknote would enter circulation on 25 November, while planning for the new €50 had already begun. The €20 and €50 banknotes from the first series had been particularly popular targets for counterfeiters, he continued.

The following table shows a breakdown of counterfeits per denomination for the first half of 2015.

Notes

€5€10€20€50€100€200€500Total

Number

52180820,75024,3962,7371,02125050,483

Share

(rounded)

1.0 %1.6 %41.1 %48.3 %5.4 %2.0 %0.5 % 

Fewer counterfeit coins

The number of counterfeit coins in Germany has fallen, with just under 14,500 counterfeit coins being detected in German payments in the first half of 2015. The figure for the previous six-month period stood at 26,000. On an annual basis, there were thus around four counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.

Crime on the rise due to the internet

The Federal Criminal Police Office and the Bundesbank attribute the rising incidence of counterfeits in recent years to the fact that counterfeit money is increasingly being distributed by organised groups and illegally offered for sale on the internet. Counterfeits are still being produced on a large scale in countries such as Italy, according to Rainer Elm, counterfeit money expert and Head of the Bundesbank's National Analysis Centre in Mainz. The number of people putting counterfeits into circulation is growing as a result of online trading, he explained, adding that nearly one in ten counterfeit €50 banknotes contains an imitation hologram that was sold over the internet.

Counterfeit euro banknotes in the euro area

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced in a press release that the number of counterfeit banknotes had fallen throughout the euro area as a whole. In the first half of 2015, 454,000 counterfeits were registered, which is 10.5% down on the second half of 2014 – but still up on the first half of 2014. However, measured in terms of the amount of cash in circulation – which totals more than €17 billion – the number of counterfeits detected in the first half of 2015 is still very low.


Checking banknotes for authenticity

The Bundesbank advises that banknotes and coins should be checked carefully at all times, as counterfeit money is not eligible for reimbursement. "A banknote's authenticity can be checked quickly by putting them to the 'feel, look and tilt' test," said Bundesbank Executive Board member Thiele. 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

Through its branch network, the Bundesbank provides training courses free of charge to the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties. There, participants have the opportunity to view and examine typical counterfeits. The contact details for the branches can 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).