Fake Euro notes: Counterfeit Fuffies on the rise: How to recognize counterfeit money

The Bundesbank removed 56,600 counterfeit euro notes from circulation last year.

Fake Euro notes: Counterfeit Fuffies on the rise: How to recognize counterfeit money

The Bundesbank removed 56,600 counterfeit euro notes from circulation last year. This means that it has identified 28.2 percent more counterfeits than in 2022, it announced on Monday. The counterfeit money found had a total face value of 5.1 million euros - only in 2004 was the amount of damage even higher.

The fact that there is so much counterfeit money in circulation can be attributed to the fact that counterfeiters have recently mixed in a particularly large number of large flowers. The Bundesbank registered 266 percent more counterfeit 200-euro banknotes than in the previous year, and manipulated 500-euro notes appeared 167 percent more often.

The reason for the increase in the number of counterfeit money is a few major cases of fraud. In around a dozen fraudulent transactions with luxury goods, jewelry, gold bars, watches and cars were paid for primarily with 200 and 500 euros. This resulted in the amount of damage caused by counterfeit money being 90 percent higher in 2023 than in the previous year.

The Bundesbank confiscated counterfeit fifties most frequently in 2023 – 21,586. Overall, the volume of counterfeit money remains at a low level. Citizens have only a low risk of coming into contact with counterfeit money. “In 2023, there were an average of seven counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 residents,” says Burkhard Balz, who is responsible for cash on the Bundesbank board.

Counterfeit notes can end up in your wallet through all sorts of cash transactions. However, there is no danger when withdrawing cash: "No counterfeit money can come out of ATMs because they are filled with verified money," Balz told Capital.

Some copies are clumsy: a large proportion of counterfeit banknotes are revealed by unusual printing. If the word "MovieMoney" is written on the front below the European flag or the word "Prop copy" is printed on the back, these are film props or play money. This happens particularly with 10 and 20 euro notes. In some of these counterfeits, the "MovieMoney" imprint was covered up and replaced with a signature.

Other counterfeiters work professionally, their counterfeit banknotes look very similar to the original and the format, color and image elements are often identical. Anyone who wants to expose such copies needs an eye for detail.

Nevertheless, counterfeit banknotes can usually be identified without any special tools, but with a little attention. The Bundesbank advises comparing a suspicious banknote with one that is undoubtedly genuine and, above all, paying attention to the various security features. Then the testing principle “feel, see, tilt” applies:

Real euro notes are made with a special paper made from cotton fibers. It is characterized by its non-slip structure. The 5 and 10 euro notes in the Europa series, issued since 2013 and 2014, are specially painted for longer durability as they pass through more hands than the other denominations. They feel smooth. Some areas on the front of euro banknotes stand out with a tactile relief.

If you hold a banknote up to the light, you should see a dark stripe running through the middle of the original. This is the security thread. In the unprinted area of ​​each bill, the watermark appears as a shadow image.

When tilting a real euro banknote, some features change their motifs or color depending on the viewing angle. New and old euro notes are characterized by a shiny stripe on the back. The denomination of the banknotes should change color when tilted; In the newer European series, this happens on the front of all notes; in the first Euro series, the note values ​​shimmer on the back of the 50 to 500 euro notes.

At best, you check every banknote you get your hands on. Caution is required, at least when it comes to banknotes of higher value. Anyone who passes on or returns counterfeit money can get into trouble. “If you consciously pass on counterfeit money, it is a criminal offense, but even if you pass it on unconsciously, there is initial suspicion,” warns Bundesbank board member Balz.

If a bank note turns out to be a copy, the police must be notified immediately. If you are unsure whether you have contracted a bloom, you can have the suspicious banknote checked at your local bank or at a branch of the Deutsche Bundesbank. If it is actually counterfeit money, the relevant office will keep the note. The sum is then lost: “Fake money will generally not be replaced,” says Balz. "Otherwise this would also be good business for the counterfeiters themselves."

Imitations of euro coins are also increasing. In 2023, the Bundesbank discovered around 115,900 counterfeit coins in German payment transactions, mostly 2-euro counterfeits. The year before there were only around 73,400. This means that in Germany there were fourteen counterfeit coins for every 10,000 inhabitants. The unusual increase was caused by some companies that had collected suspicious coins for years and submitted them to the Bundesbank in 2023.

Real coins are characterized by a coin image that stands out clearly from the base of the coin. They are only weakly magnetic and can be easily removed by magnets. Counterfeit coins, on the other hand, often appear blurry, often have unevenness, are colored slightly differently and are usually not magnetic at all or very strongly magnetic.

In the euro area, the national central banks put cash into circulation. In Germany this is the Bundesbank. Its 31 branches supply retailers and banks with cash, remove counterfeit money from circulation and replace damaged cash.

The euro notes that were issued with the introduction of the euro were designed by the Austrian designer Robert Kalina with the theme “Ages and Styles in Europe”. The banknotes show architectural styles from seven eras of European cultural history. Windows and gates can be seen on the front of the notes and bridges on the back. However, these are not real buildings, but rather fictional architectural examples from each era.

Between May 2013 and May 2019, the Bundesbank introduced revised banknotes in denominations of five to 200 euros. The designs of the euro notes come from the German graphic artist Reinhold Gerstetter. The collection is called the Europa Series because two of the security features include a portrait of the mythological figure Europa. The image of Europa comes from a vase on display in the Louvre in Paris.

The 500 euro banknote that was included in the first series is still an accepted means of payment. However, it was not reissued because the Council of the European Central Bank feared that this banknote would encourage illegal transactions.

This article first appeared in the business magazine "Capital", which, like stern, is part of RTL Deutschland.