EU PROTECTS > Our Safety > Out of print: How the EU is putting an end to counterfeit currency

“It’s a relief to know that businesses like mine aren’t alone in the fight against counterfeiters.”

Florian Spietz

Watermarks, holograms and microprinting – with the right equipment, there are many ways of telling whether a euro note or coin is genuine. Yet, discovering where it comes from – and who is responsible for the forgery – often requires EU countries to work together. 

In September 2014, Italian police seized 340,000 fake €50 banknotes in Naples and Milan. Just days later, police in Romania raided a print shop in Oradea, where they found a stock of over 220,000 forged euro banknotes, worth €13 million. Although these raids took place in different countries, the fake currency could be traced back to the same printing machine in Romania. With EU support, Italian and Romanian police caught the forgers: a notorious Italian gang. Then, EU anti-counterfeiting experts were brought in to analyse the fake money, collect evidence against the criminals responsible and restore trust in the cash in our pockets.

Out of print: How the EU is putting an end to counterfeit currency

It’s a game of cat-and-mouse: as soon as new security features are added to euro banknotes or coins, criminals try to copy them. The EU is helping national authorities stay ahead of the game. In 2014, Romanian and Italian police were closing in on a network of money forgers. Sharing information across borders disrupted a criminal operation, preventing millions of fake euros from entering the European market and damaging ordinary businesses.

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Col Vincenzo Andreone

Financial Guard

Italy

“Earlier in 2014, we seized €17 million worth of forged currency in Naples and Milan. We’d been watching the criminals for a while. We noticed that they’d set up a suspicious print shop in Oradea, Romania.”

“In my job, it’s important to work closely with anti-counterfeiting experts throughout Europe. If Italian criminals cross borders, we can ask the EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol, to put us in contact with police in other countries. So that’s exactly what we did, and they told me to call Daniel in Bucharest.”

“We followed the criminals to a print shop in Romania. Through Europol, I knew exactly who to call next.”

 - Col Vincenzo Andreone

Chief Commissioner Daniel Dina

General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime

Romania

“After Vincenzo called me on 25 September 2014, our suspicions were confirmed, and we launched a dawn raid on the print shop in Oradea. Thanks to Europol, we already had contacts on the Italian side of the investigation.”

“We arrived in the morning at around 5:00. At first, everything looked legitimate: there were ink cartridges, catalogues, flyers. But it took us only a few minutes to find the illegal printing machine. In the backroom, we found around 200,000 fake €50 notes fresh off the printing press. When the printing equipment was sealed off, we contacted the European Central Bank.”

“We still needed evidence. So, we contacted the EU’s most experienced counterfeiting specialist.”

 - Chief Commissioner Daniel Dina

Martin Münd

Counterfeit Banknote Expert, European Central Bank

Germany

“The Romanian police asked for our help via Europol. They asked me to come to Oradea to collect forensic evidence for a euro counterfeiting case.”

“I knew where to look for clues that the print shop was a front for money forgers. I found a printed sheet of euros in a hidden hatch of the machine; they matched the notes found in Italy earlier that year. It was the ultimate piece of evidence!”

“In major cases like this, we help police find the best evidence to put counterfeiters behind bars.”

 - Martin Münd

Doxoula Koutsotoliou

Greek, Counterfeit Coin Expert, Economic & Financial Affairs department, European Commission

Belgium

“In the Oradea investigation, our Central Bank colleagues looked into forged euro banknotes. When counterfeit coins come into play, it’s our job to analyse them.”

“It’s easy to recognise most fake euro coins simply by looking at them, particularly the 2-euro and 1-euro pieces. The real ones stick to a magnet. People just need to know what to pay attention to. That’s why we want to share our information with police, shopkeepers and consumers all over the EU.”

“We have an EU-wide network of experts and national authorities tracking down fake euros.”

 - Doxoula Koutsotoliou

Florian Spietz

Spietz Decor shop

Belgium

“As a shopkeeper, I have to be on the look-out for fake euros. If a customer pays for a large amount of wallpaper, paint or flooring with fake money, it hurts our business. We lose the products and the bank won’t accept the counterfeit currency. A high number of forgeries in circulation could even lead to inflation and higher prices across Europe.” 

“Over the last year, we’ve had only 2 or 3 counterfeiting incidents. This is because spotting techniques are spreading.”

“There’s a whole system of anti-counterfeiting experts and technologies working to protect us.”

 - Florian Spietz

Did you know?

Feel, look, tilt

There are many security features on euro banknotes. The easiest way to check them and spot counterfeit banknotes is the feel, look, tilt-method. As for coins, the easiest way to spot counterfeit €1 and €2 pieces is with a magnet: the real ones will be slightly attracted to it.

563,000

The number of counterfeits is decreasing. According to the European Central Bank, in 2018, approximatively 563,000 counterfeit euro bank notes were pulled from circulation, down 37.3% percent compared to 899,000 in 2015.

The suspect note

If you have your own business or work in retail, you are bound to exchange a lot of euros on a daily basis. If you ever suspect a customer of paying with a fake banknote, don’t put yourself at risk. Ask for another note. If the customer doesn’t have one, you can bring the suspect note to your local police or bank to determine if it is genuine.

64%

As of 2018, support for the common currency in the euro zone is at an all-time high according to the European Commission’s 2018 survey.

€28 million

The amount at stake in the 2014 Oradea counterfeiting investigation. Thanks to EU support, Romanian and Italian police prevented the criminals from reaping the profits.

A global fight

The EU’s law enforcement agency (Europol) is the world-wide contact point for euro counterfeiting investigations. Visit Europol’s website to learn about other successful euro counterfeiting operations, working closely with the European Central Bank and EU countries.

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