Germany records a sharp rise in counterfeit bills

Image: Burkhard Schubert/Future Image/IMAGO

The number of fake euro banknotes in circulation in Germany increased in 2023, the country’s central bank says. Authorities said they confiscated cash with a supposed value of over five million euros.

German authorities recorded a sharp increase in counterfeit cash in 2023, with around 56,600 banknotes theoretically worth almost €5.1 million withdrawn from circulation.

The figures, announced by the country’s central bank, the Bundesbank on Monday, represent a 28% increase in the number of notes and a 90% increase in face value compared to 2022.

Bundesbank board member Burkhard Balz blamed the increase on “a few major cases of fraud” involving predominantly €200 and €500 banknotes, respectively worth $217 and $541 on the surface.

But he said the figures are “a far cry” from the all-time high of 2015 when 95,400 fake notes were confiscated, and that “the risk for ordinary citizens of coming into contact with counterfeit money remains low.”

According to calculations by the Bundesbank, there were an average of seven counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany in 2023.

How to spot fake cash in Germany

Cash remains king in Germany, with Germans still making nearly 60% of their purchases with physical money, according to a Bundesbank study last year — vastly higher than in the Netherlands (11%) or the United Kingdom, where only 6% of transactions are predicted to be made in cash by 2030.

The average German carries around €100 on their person and stores €1,300 in cash at home. Some are even still hoarding old Deutschmarks.

And while the yellow €200 and purple €500 notes are relatively rare in everyday life, the Bundesbank says that even the more common €5, €10, €20, €50 and €100 denominations can be fake.

Counterfeit clues include the words “Movie Money” beneath the little EU flag in the top left, often obscured by an imitation signature, or the words “Prop copy” on the reverse side of a note.

The Bundesbank recommends the tactic of “feeling, looking, tilting” to determine the following signs of a banknote’s authenticity:

Individuals should be able to physically feel part of the image on the front of a note by running a finger over it. The holographic elements down the side should change when the note is titled, and the watermark should only be visible by holding the note up to the light.

If in doubt, the bank recommends comparing a suspicious note carefully with a note that is known to be real.

Courtesy of DW