Number of counterfeit euro banknotes remains low

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January 23, 2014 – In the second half of 2013 a total of 353,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation – 11.4% up on the figure for the first half-year. The number of counterfeits, however, remains very low in comparison with the number of genuine banknotes in circulation during that period (over 15 billion).

The half-yearly trend is shown below:

Period 2010/2 2011/1 2011/2 2012/1 2012/2 2013/1 2013/2
Number of counterfeits 364,000 364,000 310,000 251,000 280,000 317,000 353,000


Despite this small number, the members of the Eurosystem – i.e. the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 18 national central banks of the euro area – advise people to stay vigilant when receiving banknotes. Genuine banknotes can be easily recognised using the simple “feel, look and tilt” method described on the euro pages of the ECB’s website and the websites of the Eurosystem national central banks. If a person receives a suspect banknote, he/she should compare it directly with one that is known to be genuine. If those suspicions are confirmed, the person should contact either the police or – depending on national practice – the respective national central bank.

The table below provides a percentage breakdown, by denomination, of the total number of counterfeits withdrawn from circulation in the second half of 2013.

Denomination 5 euro 10 euro 20 euro 50 euro 100 euro 200 euro 500 euro
Percentage breakdown 0.4 % 6.3 % 43.0 % 35.0 % 12.9 % 1.4 % 1.0 %

During that period:

  • the 20 euro and 50 euro continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes. The proportion of counterfeit 20 euro notes increased and that of counterfeit 50 euro notes decreased.
  • Together, they accounted for 78% of the counterfeits;
    the number of 10 euro counterfeits rose, but this denomination still only comprised 6.3% of the total; and
  • most (98.0%) of the counterfeits were found in euro area countries. Only around 1.5% were found in EU Member States outside the euro area and 0.5% were found in other parts of the world.

The Eurosystem communicates in various ways to help the public distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes, and to help professional cash handlers ensure that banknote-handling and processing machines can reliably identify and withdraw counterfeits from circulation. The Eurosystem has a duty to safeguard the integrity of the euro banknotes and to draw on improvements in banknote technology. The Europa series it is introducing will contribute to maintaining public confidence in the currency. The new series will offer optimal protection against counterfeiting, as the banknotes will be even more secure and durable.

On January 13 2014, Yves Mersch, member of the ECB’s Executive Board, unveiled the new Europa series 10 euro banknote, which follows the new 5 euro banknote, issued on 2 May 2013. The other banknotes in this series will be introduced gradually over the coming years.

Source: European Central Bank.