PRESS RELEASE

Biannual information on the counterfeiting of the euro

23 January 2003

During the second half of 2002, a total of 145,153 counterfeit euro banknotes were removed from circulation by the Eurosystem*. This compares with the 21,965 counterfeits removed during the first half of the year – an exceptionally low figure on account of the newness of the currency, the various information campaigns on the euro banknotes and coins that ran in 2001 and the first months of 2002 and the high degree of public scrutiny of the currency. Although the total number of euro counterfeits recorded during the second half of the year has increased, for the year as a whole it is less than a quarter of the total number of counterfeits of legacy currencies reported by euro area national central banks in 2001. Additionally, the ECB has been informed of the existence of 414 counterfeit euro banknotes by non-euro area countries. However, the full extent of euro counterfeiting is very small, considering that approximately 8.2 billion genuine euro banknotes were in circulation at the end of 2002.

Because of their generally poor quality, and also because of the high level of public interest, counterfeits introduced into circulation are quickly detected. There have only been around 20 counterfeits per 1 million genuine banknotes in circulation.

The breakdown of counterfeits by denomination for the second half of the year is shown below:

€5 €10 €20 €50 €100 €200 €500 Total
Quantity 730 1,898 11,522 121,826 8,046 1,007 124 145,153
Percentage 0.5 1.3 7.9 83.9 5.6 0.7 0.1 100

The number of counterfeit coins is also very low. Statistical reporting of coin activity is a matter for the European Commission.

The ECB continues to encourage the public to be vigilant in order to detect counterfeits. In this respect, the "look – feel – tilt" method of checking the euro banknotes' authenticity described in the Eurosystem's information material has proved to be an effective means of detecting counterfeits. The ECB would like to stress that it is in the interest of every citizen to continue to protect the euro from counterfeiting by always remembering to look, feel and tilt.

* The word "Eurosystem" refers to the European Central Bank and the 12 national central banks of the euro area countries.

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