As a consequence of the pandemic raging in Europe most of us have resorted to cashless payment means (plus we’ve been buying a whole lot more online) and so, for once in a rather long period, the number of fake euro banknotes decreased almost 18% between 2019 and 2020. Last year, some 460,000 fake banknotes were withdrawn from circulation, a historically low level in proportion to banknotes in circulation. The most counterfeited notes continue to be the €20 and €50 banknotes. Do you have doubts about your banknotes? The ECB’s method [] consists of touching, examining and tilting the banknote.

Touch the banknote 

By touching the banknote, you will have a precise idea of the paper used and therefore of its texture. It must be firm and the banknote must have its own specific sound – almost a crackling sound. It must not be limp or waxy. The printing techniques used for manufacturing banknotes are special and give the banknote a relief effect. The ink used for printing the main pattern is thicker. If you touch the banknote, you should feel a relief under your fingers. If you have a sensation of “smoothness”, your banknote is probably counterfeit.

Newer banknotes in euros have a new security element: small slanting dashes printed at the ends of the front of the banknote, which facilitate recognition of the banknote by touch for the visually impaired.

Look at the banknote 

Hold the banknote against the light and search for these three items.
A watermark portrait of Europa together with the value of the note should become visible on both sides of the note. The portrait window in the hologram (the silvery stripe on the banknote) should reveal a portrait of Europa (from the Greek mythology, not the map!); it is visible on both sides of notes of €20 and above.
Against the light you will notice a dark band that divides the banknote into two parts. This is the security thread on which you can read the face value in tiny white letters followed by the € symbol (attention, on old banknotes, the word “EURO” appears instead of “€”). The security thread must never appear distinctly and superimposed over other printed elements, because it has been incorporated into the paper. If this is the case, it is a counterfeit banknote.

Tilt the banknote

This is probably the most fun of the three and great to teach it to your children. When you tilt the banknote, a world of colors emerges in different places! The hologram reveals a small portrait of Europa and the emerald number on the bottom left of the front of the note changes from emerald green to deep blue.

In addition to your sharp eyes, there are two additional techniques for recognising a counterfeit banknote: ultraviolet light and infrared light. The ECB has it all in this nifty video:

Even though Luxembourg is only slightly affected by the traffic of counterfeit notes, be vigilant. If you think that you have received a counterfeit banknote, do not pass it on, as this would constitute a criminal offence. Instead, contact the police or the Luxembourg Central Bank. Please bear in mind that you will not recover the value of this banknote.

If you liked this article, you can find more on the ING blog