Proportion of Fake Euro Notes Seized at Record Low

Euro banknotes are piled up on a table in the foreign exchange department of UBS bank in Zurich, Switzerland, in this Dec. 13, 2001, file photo. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martin Ruetschi)

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany (AFP) — A record low proportion of fake euro banknotes were seized in 2020, according to European Central Bank data, with 20- and 50-euro notes most popular among counterfeiters.

Some 460,000 fake euro banknotes were withdrawn of circulation in 2020, down 18% compared with 2019, the ECB said. 

But the ECB cautioned that “the likelihood of receiving a counterfeit is very small,” with the chance of handling a fake dropping to a record low. 

Around 17 fake notes were caught per one million genuine ones in 2020, amid more than 25 billion banknotes in circulation. 

The counterfeit rate has fallen sharply since 2009, when 64 fake notes were found per million genuine ones.

Twenty- and 50-euro banknotes were again the most counterfeited notes, jointly accounting for about two-thirds of the total, the central bank said.

In recent years, the ECB has gradually given euro banknotes enhanced security features, with new 100- and 200-euro banknotes the latest to be upgraded in 2019.

Around 1.2% of those found to be counterfeit in 2020 were 500-euro notes, which is no longer issued by the eurozone but still counts as legal tender. 

The high-denomination note’s removal from circulation was due to its use in organized crime. 

The eurozone’s network of central banks, known as the Eurosystem, has professional cash handlers to ensure banknote-handling and procession machines can identify counterfeits. 

But it urges the public to use vigilance when using notes.

The Eurosystem suggests a “feel, look and tilt” method to check for counterfeits, which asks consumers to feel the patterned print, look out for watermarks and tilt notes to see how they change visually as a way to catch out counterfeits.

It comes as the ECB is due to decide in the spring whether to launch a project to create digital euro that could be used for daily payments in the same way as banknotes. 

“If and when we have a digital euro, we will nonetheless always have banknotes,” ECB President Christine Lagarde reassured reporters on Thursday.

© Agence France-Presse

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