How to detect counterfeits
Euro banknotes incorporate highly sophisticated security features, which make the euro one of the safest currencies in the world.
Although the stability of the euro makes it particularly interesting to counterfeiters, the number of counterfeit banknotes detected accounts only for a negligible share of banknotes in circulation.
However, a counterfeit banknote cannot be exchanged for a genuine one: whoever accepts a counterfeit banknote when it is passed off as a genuine banknote will lose their money. Therefore, it is essential to recognise a genuine banknote when receiving one.
When you receive a euro banknote, always check several security features (do not rely on just one). If in doubt, compare the banknote with one you know to be genuine, looking for differences and not similarities.
If any doubt persists about the banknote’s authenticity, it should be taken to a branch of Banco de Portugal or a credit institution, where due clarifications will be given.
Check the security features
It is very easy to check security features, without the need for additional equipment, by using the simple FEEL, LOOK and TILT method.
Feel the banknote. The banknote paper is made of cotton, which should feel crisp and firm. Raised printing produces a tactile effect: the ECB initials, the doorway or window, the value numeral and the lettering.
Look at the banknote against the light. The watermark, the security thread, the portrait window (in the €20, €50, €100 and €200 banknotes of the Europa series) and the see-through number (only in the first series) become visible.
Tilt the banknote and check:
- the portrait hologram shows a portrait of Europa (a figure from Greek mythology), the € symbol, the architectural image and the value of the banknote. On €100 and €200 banknotes, the hologram stripe also features the satellite hologram and a large € symbol;
- the emerald number, which displays an effect of the light that moves up and down. The number also changes from emerald green to deep blue depending on your viewing angle. The emerald number of €100 and €200 banknotes also shows € symbols inside the numberals;
- the portrait window, on the €20, €50, €100 and €200 banknotes, which shows rainbow-coloured lines around the value numeral (€20 and €50 banknotes) or the € symbol (on €100 and €200 banknotes) and, on the back of the banknote of all denominations, the portrait window shows rainbow-coloured value numerals;
- the €100 and €200 banknotes feature the satellite hologram. This hologram shows several € symbols that move around the value numerals. The € symbols become clearer under direct light.
- Hologram patch and colour-changing number (on the €50, €100, €200 and €500 banknotes)
- Hologram stripe and glossy stripe (on the €5, €10 and €20 banknotes)
Check with tools
You can also check the authenticity of euro banknotes with the aid of tools, such as a magnifying glass, an ultraviolet lamp, or under infrared light.
Check for microprinting on both sides of the banknote. The microprinting is sharp (not blurred).
Under ultraviolet light, check if the paper itself does not glow. Fibres embedded in the paper appear, coloured green, blue and red in the first series. In the Europa series each fibre shows three different colours, and fluorescent ink has been used in several other areas.
Europa series – fluorescent ink
Europa series banknotes show different features under ultraviolet light depending on the light: standard ultraviolet light (UV-A) or special ultraviolet light (UV-C).
Standard UV light (UV-A)
The stars in the EU flag, the small circles, the large stars and several other areas glow yellow.
A quarter of a circle in the centre of the banknote as well as several other areas glow green. The horizontal serial number and a stripe appear in red.
Special ultraviolet light (UV-C)
The stars in the EU flag and the small circles in the centre glow yellow. The large stars and several other areas glow orange or yellow. The € symbol also becomes visible.
On the back, the same features are visible as those seen under standard UV light.
First series – fluorescent ink
The blue EU flag turns green and the yellow stars turn orange.
The blue signature of the President of the ECB turns green.
On the back, the map of Europe, bridge and value numeral glow.
Under infrared light, check the ink properties.
Europa series – front: The emerald number and the right side of the main image are clearly visible. On the €20, €50, €100 and €200 banknotes, part of the large-sized value numeral is also visible.
Europa series – back: Only the value numeral and the horizontal serial number are clearly visible.
First series – front: only half of the doorway or window is clearly visible.
First series – back: only the right-side serial number is visible. On high denomination banknotes, the colour-changing number is also visible.
What should I do if I come across a fake/counterfeit/suspect banknote?
The “Feel-Look-Tilt method” is the proper, effective procedure for the public to check the security features and ascertain the authenticity of banknotes. However, there is always a possibility that you will come across suspect banknotes. Below are some suggestions, where there is doubt concerning the authenticity of a banknote.
- If you are not sure whether the banknote is genuine, don’t accept it. Remember that fake/counterfeit banknotes are worthless, which means that if you accept one you will receive no compensation.
- Contact Banco de Portugal if you need more information.
- Politely ask for another banknote and assume he/she is innocent. Explain him/her that they may be in possession of a suspect banknote and suggest that he/she immediately take it to the local police, a local bank or Banco de Portugal. In any case, never put yourself at risk.
- Immediately inform the local police or your security officer about the incident.
- Try to remember as much as you can about the person that handed you the suspect banknote.
- If you think you have accepted a counterfeit banknote by mistake, don’t pass it on to someone else, as this is a criminal offence. Give the suspect note to the local police, a local bank or Banco de Portugal. If it is genuine you will get your money back.
Banco de Portugal provides face-to-face training courses, free of charge, on the authenticity of euro banknotes and coins. For more information on these courses, click here.