Biannual information on the counterfeiting of the euro

31 July 2002

This press release is the first in a series of biannual statements published by the European Central Bank (ECB), intended to provide information on trends in the counterfeiting of the euro.

During the first six months of this year (i.e. since the euro banknotes and coins were first put into circulation) 21,965 counterfeit euro banknotes were recorded. This figure represents less than 7% of the total number of counterfeits of legacy currencies recorded by euro area national central banks during the same period in 2001. Seen in this context, the extent of counterfeiting of the euro is, so far, very low, although counterfeit activity recently seems to have increased somewhat. A breakdown of the figures by country is not appropriate since there is now a much larger cross-border migration of banknotes (and, therefore, of counterfeits) than hitherto.

The euro – both the banknotes and the coins – contains a variety of features designed to deter the counterfeiter. However, it is important not to be complacent about the current counterfeit situation, and the Eurosystem (i.e. the ECB and the 12 national central banks of the euro area countries) continues to monitor developments very closely. In particular, it:

  • works in close co-operation with national police forces, via Europol, to support the detection of currency-related crime, and it encourages the determined prosecution of all those who produce counterfeit currency, knowingly handle counterfeits, or use counterfeits with intent to defraud;
  • has established a Counterfeit Analysis Centre (CAC) at the ECB, which co-ordinates the analysis of all counterfeit banknotes, either on a national or on an EU basis depending on the quality, quantity and distribution pattern. The analysis of counterfeit coins is co-ordinated by the European Technical and Scientific Centre, which was established by the EU Member States at the French Mint in Pessac and which is managed by the European Commission.
  • Furthermore, the CAC manages a common database into which data from the analyses of both counterfeit banknotes and coins are fed. All the authorities in the EU involved in combating counterfeiting use this database. The CAC also analyses and handles the small number of counterfeits recovered from outside the EU.

The quality of counterfeit euro banknotes has generally been low. With a few exceptions (mainly concerning the €50 denomination), they stem from "amateur" operations. Given their low quality, as well as – in this particular case – the high degree of interest from the public, counterfeits do not "circulate" in the same way as genuine banknotes do. Once they are introduced into circulation, they are quickly detected. Indeed, the 21,965 banknote counterfeits identified in six months correspond to an average of 121 counterfeits per day. Therefore, on the basis of the approximately 7.2 billion genuine euro banknotes in circulation at the end of June, just one counterfeit per day has been recorded for every 59 million genuine banknotes in circulation.

The split of counterfeits by denomination is shown below:

€5 €10 €20 €50 €100 €200 €500 Total
Quantity 309 1,210 3,323 14,307 2,261 518 37 21,965
Percentage 2 6 15 65 10 2 0 100

The €50 banknote has been the preferred target of the counterfeiters, perhaps because €50 is a popular denomination.

The counterfeiting of coins is even more rare. So far, only 68 counterfeits have been recorded, although it is acknowledged that counterfeit coins tend to be disposed of rather than reported, because of their low value.

The ECB gratefully acknowledges the response of the general public to the Eurosystem's information campaigns as well as the acceptance and interest which the public has shown towards its new currency. The "look – feel – tilt" method of checking authenticity described in the information material has proved to be an effective means of detecting counterfeits. It is in the interest of every citizen to continue to protect the euro from counterfeiting by constant vigilance and by always remembering to look, feel and tilt.

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