Paper Money

European bank reports on euro note counterfeiting

A graph from the ECB shows an upward trend in the number of counterfeits seen, but the number remains below the 2019 count.

Image courtesy of European Central Bank.

The European Central Bank’s annual report on counterfeit euro bank notes issued on Jan. 29 included the comment that the “number of counterfeit euro banknotes remains low in 2023.”

Around 467,000 counterfeit euro bank notes were withdrawn by banks from circulation in 2023, which translates to 16 counterfeits detected per every million genuine bank notes in circulation. The ECB indicates this is one of the smallest proportions since the introduction of euro banknotes on Jan. 1, 2002.

Despite the small proportion of fakes to genuine, the actual number of counterfeits increased compared to the number in 2022 because the number of counterfeits that year was exceptionally low following the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the number of counterfeits found in 2023 was lower than in the years preceding the pandemic.

The €20 and €50 denominations remain the most-often counterfeited. Combined, they account for more than 70% of the total. Statistics show 97.2% of the counterfeits were found in euro area countries, 1.9% in non-euro area EU member states and 0.9% in other parts of the world.

Most of the counterfeits are easy to detect. They either lack security features or have extremely poor imitations of them. The bank says that most bad notes are easily detected with the “feel, look and tilt” method for examining bank notes. The Eurosystem, comprising the European Central Bank and national central banks of the member states whose currency is the euro, also continues its work on cash handling machines that reliably identify counterfeits and withdraw them from circulation.

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