FRANKFURT (dpa-AFX) – A “0 euro note”? Clear case of counterfeit money. Nevertheless, a wholesaler in Bavaria accepted the souvenir note in April 2020 as a 100 euro note – even if the imitation and the real note have nothing in common apart from the green color. King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his dream castles are immortalized in pictures and text on the “Memo Euro”, Neuschwanstein is even misspelled: “Neuswanstein”.
Consumers should always “look closely at banknotes – especially the smaller denominations”, warns Bundesbank board member Johannes Beermann. In Germany, there are only 7 false banknotes for every 10,000 inhabitants, in Europe there are 13. In view of the more than 25 billion real euro banknotes that are in circulation, a comparatively low rate. But whoever is acclaimed a flower will not get a replacement for it.
After all: money pirates also had a harder time in the pandemic than in normal times. In both Germany and the euro area, there was less damage from counterfeit money in 2020 than a year earlier. According to the Bundesbank and European Central Bank (ECB), the police, retailers and banks withdrew 460,000 counterfeit euro bills from circulation. That is a record low, in 2019 it was almost 18 percent more (559,000 units). The damage to the Eurosystem totaled 21.5 million euros after 29.2 million euros in the twelve months before.
“Annual markets and festivals were canceled due to Corona and with it many opportunities that are otherwise used by counterfeiters because of the rapid exchange of money to bring counterfeit money into circulation,” explained Beermann.
In Germany, too, according to the Bundesbank, the damage caused by counterfeit money fell for the fifth year in a row from 3.3 million euros in 2019 to around 2.9 million euros. “The amount of damage, which has been falling for years, gives us hope that the improved security features will take effect,” said Beermann.
The completely overhauled second generation of euro banknotes has been complete since 2019. New security features should make the craft more difficult for money forgers. For example a shiny emerald number that changes color when the glow is tilted, or a transparent “portrait window” in which a portrait of the mythical figure of Europe appears in the light.
So far, money forgers have failed because of such technical refinements. “Bad counterfeits are constantly being withdrawn from the market. All of them are easy to recognize because they do not have any security features or the features have only been imitated by laypeople,” stated the ECB. Bundesbank board member Beermann explained: “Even in the case of forgeries that can be assigned to organized crime, there is a tendency towards simpler copy forgery. Here, the effort is less, but the forgeries are also easier to detect.”
However, criminals in this country brought higher numbers of counterfeit banknotes into circulation last year than in 2019. It was almost 58,800 counterfeit bills, up from 55,200 a year earlier. The Bundesbank explains the increase in the number of copies in Germany due to the increased number of counterfeit banknotes, which are offered on the Internet as play money or film props under the terms “movie money” or “prop copy”. These drove the number of flowers up significantly, especially for the 10 and 20 euro notes.
A particularly curious case: when a young person in Berlin began his youth arrest in November 2020, he had to empty his pockets. During the incoming inspection, the staff ensures, among other things, 88 “Prop copy” twenties.
After observing the currency watchdog, criminals are increasingly relying on smaller bills, which change hands more frequently and where consumers may not always look very carefully before the bill ends up in their wallets. In Europe, the 20-euro note was counterfeited most frequently last year (36.3 percent of the counterfeit currency), followed by the 50-euro note (30.9 percent). In Germany, the fifties were still ahead with 41 percent of counterfeits, albeit with a significantly decreasing proportion (2019: 56 percent). The twenties now represent 30 (2019: 24) percent of counterfeit banknotes in Germany, the tens for 16 (4) percent.
Criminals try comparatively little to cash in on counterfeit coins. According to the information, 44,814 false coins were withdrawn from circulation in Germany in 2020, 2,763 more than a year earlier. Almost 90 percent of these were two euro coins.
Seldom, however, appear so large amounts of counterfeit coins at once as in October last year in Baden-Wrttemberg: At that time children playing found 45 kilograms of false two-euro coins in a stream in Bretzfeld in the Hohenlohe district. The police put the value at least 10,000 euros – if the coins had been real. But they quickly turned out to be counterfeit money./ben/mar/DP/jha