Counterfeit banknotes

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In 2020 the Bank of Italy identified as counterfeit a total of 65,229 banknotes, which were withdrawn from circulation, down 27.2 per cent from the previous year. This is the lowest number identified since 2002, the year in which the euro entered into circulation as a physical currency.

The most commonly counterfeited denominations continued to be the €20 and the €50 notes, jointly accounting for over three quarters of all counterfeits.

In 2020 a total of 460,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn globally (-17.7 per cent compared with 2019). Likewise, in this case, this represents the lowest amount of notes withdrawn since 2003. Most counterfeits (94.5 per cent) were found in euro area countries.

The Bank of Italy, the other Eurosystem central banks and the European Central Bank, working closely with law enforcement, continuously monitor developments in counterfeitin

For further information, please refer to the press release published on the European Central Bank's website at www.ecb.int.

Counterfeits examined by Banca d'Italia by denomination 2016-2020

 
Year € 5
€ 10 € 20 € 50 € 100 € 200 € 500 Total
2016 940 6,755 59,888 56,520 23,087 618 111 147,919
2017 471 3,792 71,950 69,050 15,295 781 233 161,572
2018 581 3,437 28,147 60,346 14,917 473 568 108,469
2019 1,343 3,741 29,406 37,917 17,200 298 284 90,189
2020 782 2,734 25,629 23,976 11,718 302 88 65,229

Fight against counterfeiting

Counterfeiting, which is a crime under Italian law, is paid great attention by central banks since it could undermine the public's confidence in the currency if it is not kept under control.

The Bank of Italy cooperates with the other national central banks of the Eurosystem and the European Central Bank in the fight against the counterfeiting of banknotes. It also provides training on the recognition of counterfeit notes for Italian and foreign police forces and persons charged with handling large volumes of cash.

The continuous replacement of worn banknotes ensures that the cash in circulation is of a high quality and this makes it easier to detect and withdraw counterfeits.

To make the action taken to fight counterfeiting even more effective, the Eurosystem central banks have created a computerized system for the collection and monitoring of data on counterfeits (the Counterfeit Monitoring System) and organizational arrangements for bodies operating in each member state. The following are located within the Bank of Italy:

  • a National Analysis Centre, charged with examining suspect counterfeit notes, and
  • a National Counterfeit Center set up at each national central bank and charged with coordinating the actors involved in the system and determining third parties: right of access to the Counterfeit Monitoring System.

What to do if you have a suspected counterfeit banknote

A person who is doubtful about the legitimacy of a banknote should not try to spend it, because this would be a crime. He must have it examined by a teller of a commercial bank , Post Office or Bank of Italy branch.

If the teller thinks the note is a counterfeit, he or she must withdraw it from circulation and send it to the Bank of Italy's Head Office in Rome, where the suspected banknote National Analysis Centre (NAC) will establish whether or not it is a counterfeit.

When notes are withdrawn as suspected counterfeits, those who make the withdrawal draw up a report, a copy of which is given to the presenter of the note as a receipt. If the Bank of Italy finds the note to be legitimate, the presenter is reimbursed for the full amount with a BI cashier's cheque, otherwise the presenter receives nothing.

The Bank of Italy informs the entity that made the withdrawal (so-called "submitter") of the outcome of the examination.

Knowledge of the security features of banknotes is the most effective protection from counterfeit notes and the loss caused by accepting them.

Obligations regarding suspected counterfeit banknotes

Cash handlers (banks, Poste Italiane S.p.A. and other economic agents that engage in the sorting and distribution to the public of euro banknotes and coins as a professional activity) must withdraw from circulation banknotes that are not classified as genuine following authenticity checks performed automatically or, when permitted, manually, and consign them to the branches of the Bank of Italy.

The suspect banknotes must be handed over immediately and in any case not later than the twentieth business day following that on which they were received.

The consignment of the banknotes must be accompanied by the record of withdrawal containing the information referred to in Annex 5 of the Order of the Bank of Italy dated 22 June 2016.

The list of branches to which suspect counterfeit notes can be sent or delivered is published here.

Euro Check Web Site

The European Central Bank has set up the website "Euro Check Web Site" that provides information on counterfeit euro banknotes. Access to the site is reserved to users belonging to categories whose work makes this information necessary. These users must be designated by the organization they work for (professional cash handlers, law enforcement agencies, manufacturers of banknote handling machines, and must be specifically authorized by the NCBs, the ECB or by Europol.

Reference regulations

  • Council Regulation (EC) No. 1339/2001 of 28 June 2001pdf 80.3 KB Extending the effects of Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting to those Member States which have not adopted the euro as their single currency Extends the effects of Regulation (EC) No. 1338/2001 to the member states of the European Union which have not adopted the euro as their single currency, since the fight against counterfeiting of the euro cannot be conducted solely within the euro area. Publish date::17 September 2007
  • Council Regulation (EC) No. 1338/2001 of 28 June 2001pdf 100.1 KB Laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting Lays down measures necessary for the circulation of euro banknotes and coins in conditions such as to ensure their overall effective and consistent protection against counterfeiting; requires banks, Poste Italiane S.p.A. and other economic agents that engage in the sorting and distribution of banknotes and coins to the public as a professional activity to withdraw from circulation all euro notes and coins which they suspect of being counterfeit and to hand them over to the competent national authorities. Publish date::17 September 2007
  • Council Regulation (EC) No. 45/2009 of 18 December 2008 (external link) Amending Regulation (EC) No 1339/2001 extending the effects of Regulation (EC) No. 44/2009 to the member countries of the European Union which have not adopted the euro as their single currency
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2009 of 18 December 2008 (external link) Amending Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting

Trends in counterfeiting

Related Topics

Checking suspected counterfeit notes

The service makes it possible to have suspected counterfeit notes examined; if they are found to be genuine, at the end of the examination reimbursement is given.