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Biannual information on euro banknote counterfeiting

13 July 2006

In the first half of 2006, a total of 300,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation.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 4 44 36 12 2 1

Until the end of last year, the €50 was always the most counterfeited banknote. However, during this half-year, there was a further rise in the proportion of counterfeits of €20 banknotes and a corresponding fall in the proportion of €50 counterfeits. The €20 has now become the most counterfeited banknote. Between January and June 2006, the €20 and the €50 together accounted for 80% of all counterfeits found in circulation. Compared with the second half of 2005 there was a slight rise in the proportion of €100 counterfeits, to 12% of the total.

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 2006/1
Number of counterfeits 231,000 312,000 307,000 287,000 293,000 286,000 300,000

Furthermore, these figures should be seen in the context of a gradual increase in the number of genuine banknotes in circulation (on average 10.1 billion during the first half of 2006). As noted in previous reports, the overwhelming majority (98%) of counterfeits recovered are found in euro area countries. Just over 1% came from EU Member States outside the euro area; and just under 1% came from the other parts of the world.

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 counterfeit 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 other 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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