BRUSELS, 22nd January, 2016 (WAM) – Some 445,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the second half of 2015, 2% fewer than in the first half of the year, the European Central Bank announced today. The number of counterfeits remains very low in comparison with the increasing number of genuine banknotes in circulation (over 18 billion during the second half of 2015).

Ever since the first euro series was issued, the Eurosystem – i.e. the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 19 national central banks of the euro area – has urged people to stay vigilant when receiving banknotes. Genuine banknotes can be recognised using the simple “feel, look and tilt” method described on the euro pages of the ECB’s website and the websites of the Eurosystem national central banks.

The Eurosystem communicates in various ways to help people distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes, and to help professional cash handlers ensure that banknote-handling and processing machines can reliably identify and withdraw counterfeits from circulation.

A breakdown, by denomination, of the total number of counterfeits withdrawn from circulation in the second half of 2015, showed that the 20 and 50 notes continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes. Compared with the figures for the first half of 2015, the proportion of counterfeit 20 notes decreased and that of counterfeit 50 notes increased. Together, they accounted for 83.3% of the counterfeits; most (98.0%) of the counterfeits were found in euro area countries. Only around 1.3% were found in EU Member States outside the euro area and less than 0.7% were found in other parts of the world.