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Euro banknote counterfeiting at historically low level in 2021

Summary:
28 January 2022 347,000 counterfeit euro banknotes withdrawn from circulation in 2021, a historically low level in proportion to banknotes in circulation About two-thirds of total withdrawn counterfeits were €20 and €50 banknotes Euro banknotes remain a trusted and safe means of payment Authenticity of euro banknotes can be verified using “feel, look and tilt” method Some 347,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2021 (180,000 in the second half of the year), a decrease of 24.6% when compared with 2020. €20 and €50 notes continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes, jointly accounting for about two-thirds of the total. 95.4% of counterfeits were found in euro area countries, while 4.2% were found in non-euro area EU Member States and 0.4% in

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28 January 2022

  • 347,000 counterfeit euro banknotes withdrawn from circulation in 2021, a historically low level in proportion to banknotes in circulation
  • About two-thirds of total withdrawn counterfeits were €20 and €50 banknotes
  • Euro banknotes remain a trusted and safe means of payment
  • Authenticity of euro banknotes can be verified using “feel, look and tilt” method

Some 347,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2021 (180,000 in the second half of the year), a decrease of 24.6% when compared with 2020. €20 and €50 notes continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes, jointly accounting for about two-thirds of the total. 95.4% of counterfeits were found in euro area countries, while 4.2% were found in non-euro area EU Member States and 0.4% in other parts of the world.

There is little likelihood of receiving a counterfeit, as the number of counterfeits remains very low in proportion to the number of genuine euro banknotes in circulation. In 2021, 12 counterfeits were detected per 1 million genuine banknotes in circulation, which is a historically low level (see the chart below).

Low-quality reproductions are continuously withdrawn from circulation. Counterfeits are easy to detect as they have no security features, or only very poor imitations of them. The public does not need to be concerned about counterfeiting, but should nevertheless remain vigilant. You can check your notes by using the simple “feel, look and tilt” method described in the dedicated section of the ECB’s website and on the websites of the national central banks of the euro area. The Eurosystem also helps professional cash handlers by ensuring that banknote-handling and processing machines can reliably identify counterfeits and withdraw them from circulation.

Using counterfeits for payments is a criminal offence that may lead to prosecution. If you receive a suspect banknote, compare it directly with one you know to be genuine. If your suspicions are confirmed please contact the police or – depending on national practice – your national central bank or your own retail or commercial bank. The Eurosystem supports law enforcement agencies in their fight against currency counterfeiting.

The Eurosystem has a duty to safeguard the integrity of euro banknotes and to continue improving banknote technology. The second series of banknotes – the Europa series – is even more secure and is helping to maintain public trust in the currency.

Chart 1

Number of counterfeits detected annually per 1 million genuine notes in circulation

Table 1

Yearly figures in comparison

Period

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

Number of counterfeits

684,000

694,000

563,000

559,000

460,000

347,000

Table 2

Breakdown by denomination in 2021

Denomination

€5

€10

€20

€50

€100

€200

€500

Percentage of total

2.4%

15.7%

32.1%

33.8%

9.5%

5.5%

1.0%

For media queries, please contact Georgina Garriga Sánchez, tel.: +49 69 1344 95368.

European Central Bank
Since 1 January 1999 the European Central Bank (ECB) has been responsible for conducting monetary policy for the euro area - the world’s largest economy after the United States.

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