Paper Money

Euro note fakes at historical low level in circulation

Chart shows the number of counterfeit notes detected annually per million genuine notes in circulation.

Charts courtesy of the European Central Bank.

The European Central Bank said in a press release Jan. 22 that euro bank note counterfeiting was at a historically low level in 2020.

Only 460,000 counterfeit euro bank notes were withdrawn from circulation in 2020, which it says is a low level without precedent in proportion to bank notes in circulation and represents a reduction of 17.7% in comparison to 2019.

About two-thirds of the counterfeits intercepted from circulation were €20 and €50 bank notes, respectively 36.3% and 30.9% of the counterfeit total. Of the remainder, 16% were €10 notes, 10.3% were €100 notes, 3% were €200 notes, and 2.3% were €5 notes. The final 1.2% were the no-longer-issued €500 notes.

Not surprisingly, 94.5% of the counterfeits were found in countries that use the euro. Another 2.8% were found in EU member states that do not use the euro, and 2.7% in other parts of the world.

The bank calculated that with 25 billion bank notes in circulation, only 17 counterfeits were detected per 1 million genuine bank notes in circulation.

Many of the counterfeit notes withdrawn are easy to detect, low-quality reproductions that have either no security features or very poor imitations of them.

Six days after the ECB announcement, a Europol press release reported that nearly half a million euros worth of counterfeit euros and Romanian lei, made by an organized crime network, were seized on Jan. 27 in Romania. The group had already circulated its handiwork in at least 10 countries.

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