Ink-stained banknotes

Have you ever come across a banknote covered with ink?

If someone gives you a banknote like the ones below, do not accept it as it is probably stolen.

The ink on these banknotes is from anti-theft devices, also known as intelligent banknote neutralisation systems (IBNSs), which are activated when criminals open a protected cash container, such as an ATM or a safe in a cash transportation vehicle. These systems make stolen banknotes unusable and worthless, thus reducing the risk for retailers, banks and other professional cash handlers of becoming victims of crime.


Glued banknotes

This is one of the most common methods used to make stolen banknotes unusable, but there are other tools for protecting cash, such as glue. Glue fuses all the banknotes inside an ATM cassette together into a solid brick. If you try to peel off individual banknotes, they tear into pieces.

How to recognise a stolen ink-stained banknote?

When a banknote is stained by an intelligent banknote neutralisation system (IBNS), the security ink soaks into the banknote and leaves traces which are normally more pronounced on the edges of the banknote. The colours of the most commonly used security inks are bright violet, green, blue, red or black. The ink usually flows from the edges towards the centre of the banknotes and leaves a characteristic pattern. Sometimes, the chemicals that criminals use to wash the banknotes when trying to remove the ink can change the colour. As a result, the banknotes’ original colours could also be altered, and some security features may be damaged, or may even disappear.

Does it mean that all ink-stained banknotes are stolen?

No. If there are very light stains or a couple of small marks on the banknote and the edges are intact, then the marks are most likely accidental, caused for example by a pen dripping ink. These banknotes are unlikely to be stolen and can be accepted:

Banknotes with ink stains not caused by an IBNS

What if someone gives me an ink-stained banknote clearly stained by an anti-theft device?

  • Don’t accept it and ask for another one. You cannot be sure that the person offering you the banknote is the rightful owner.
  • Refuse bleached or discoloured banknotes, as criminals have most likely tried to remove IBNS ink stains by washing or bleaching the notes.
  • If you have accepted an ink-stained banknote, you should bring it to your bank or a national central bank, letting them know how you got it. The national central bank will check if the ink stains are from an IBNS and may involve the police, who can use the banknotes as evidence to convict the criminals responsible.
  • If the investigations reveal that the ink stains are from an IBNS, you may not be entitled to a reimbursement. National central banks can exchange euro banknotes stained by anti-theft devices only at the request of the original banknote owner who was the victim of the criminal activity that led to the staining of the banknotes.
  • If the investigations confirm that the ink stains are not from an IBNS and the banknote has just been accidentally marked, you will receive a new banknote or a fund transfer into your bank account.

Do you have any further questions? Read Article 3 of the Decision of the European Central Bank of 19 April 2013 on the exchange of damaged euro banknotes.