Paper Money

Counterfeiting of euro notes at historically low levels in 2021

Tables detail the scope of counterfeit euro bank notes recovered in 2021. Euro note counterfeiting in proportion to notes in circulation was at historically low levels.

Tables courtesy of the European Central Bank.

Counterfeiting of euro bank notes was at historically low level in proportion to notes in circulation in 2021, the equivalent of 12 counterfeits per 1 million genuine bank notes, said the European Central Bank in a press statement on Jan. 28.

The bank said 95.4% of the counterfeits were found in the euro zone, 4.2% in non-euro-using European Union member states, and 0.4% in other parts of the world.

About 347,000 fake notes were pulled from circulation in 2021; of them 180,000 were found in the second half of the year. The total is a decrease of 24.6% in comparison to 2020, and 37.9% below 2019.

The most counterfeited are still the €20 note (32.1%) and €50 note (33.8%), which together make up about two-thirds of the total. The no longer printed €500 note accounted for only 1% of them; 15.7% were €10 notes; and only 2.4% were of the lowest denomination, the €5 note.

The bank explained that low-quality fakes are continuously withdrawn from circulation. These usually lack security features, or if they have them at all, they are of very low quality and should not deceive anyone who takes the standard precaution of examining them. Note-handling and processing machines also reliably identify many.

An outlier from the norm was the Netherlands, where its central bank said that the amount found was slightly higher than in 2020. In total, 26,100 counterfeit euro notes were found there, 600 more than the year before. More than 10,000 of the fakes were €50 notes.

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