PRESS RELEASE

Biannual information on euro banknote counterfeiting

13 January 2006

In the second half of 2005, a total of 286,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation. The breakdown of these counterfeits by denomination is as follows:

€5 €10 €20 €50 €100 €200 €500
Breakdown by denomination (in %) 1 6 28 56 5 2 2

Up to now, the €50 has always been the most counterfeited banknote; during this half year, however, there has been a significant rise in the proportion of counterfeits of €20 banknotes and a corresponding fall in the proportions of €50 and €100 counterfeits. Thus, during the second half of 2005, the €20 and the €50 together accounted for 84% of all counterfeits found in circulation.

It is important to note that the level of counterfeiting has remained stable for over two years, as the following half-yearly figures show:

Period 2003/1 2003/2 2004/1 2004/2 2005/1 2005/2
Number of counterfeits 231,000 312,000 307,000 287,000 293,000 286,000

Furthermore, these figures should be seen in the context of a gradual increase in the number of genuine banknotes in circulation (10.4 billion at the end of 2005).

There has been no significant change to the overall distribution pattern: as in previous half years, 97% of counterfeits in circulation were found in the euro area; a further 1% came from other EU Member States outside the euro area; and 2% came from the “rest of the world”, mainly from countries neighbouring the EU.

The public can have confidence in the quality of euro banknotes and their security features. However, the Eurosystem, i.e. the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 12 national central banks of the euro area, continues to advise the public to be alert and to check the authenticity of banknotes they receive. All types of counterfeits can be easily distinguished from genuine banknotes by using the simple FEEL-LOOK-TILT test described in the Eurosystem’s publications and on the ECB’s website and the websites of the Eurosystem national central banks. But in cases of doubt, a suspect banknote should be compared directly with one that is known to be genuine.

In combating counterfeiting, the Eurosystem cooperates very closely with Europol (which disseminates information on the seizure before circulation of counterfeit euro banknotes and coins) and the European Commission (which is responsible for providing information about counterfeit euro coins). The Eurosystem also has a good working relationship with Interpol and national police forces on law enforcement matters. Anyone who suspects they may have received a counterfeit should contact either the police or – where national practice allows – the respective national central bank, giving as many details as possible about where the banknote originated.

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