You are here

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.

If you come across a banknote you suspect is fake or counterfeit:

  1. Note any relevant information on the person that has given you the counterfeit/suspect banknote, and how it came into your possession.
  2. Report the matter to the police, Banco de Portugal or any credit institution, detailing the circumstances in which the counterfeit/suspect banknote was given to you.

Do not try to pass on a banknote which you believe or know is counterfeit, as it is a criminal offence (Penal Code, Article 265 and following).


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 and €50 banknotes of the Europa series) and the see-through number (only in the first series) become visible. 


Tilt the banknote and check:


Europa series 

  • the portrait hologram shows a portrait of Europa (a figure from Greek mythology), a window or a doorway and the value numeral of the banknote;
  • 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 portrait window, on the €20 and €50 banknotes, which shows rainbow coloured lines around the value numeral. On the back of the banknote, rainbow-coloured value numerals appear in the window.

First series

  • 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.


Magnifying glass

Check for microprinting on both sides of the banknote. The microprinting is sharp (not blurred).


Ultraviolet lamp

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 or special ultraviolet light (UV-C).


Standard UV light

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.

Infrared light

Under infrared light, check the ink properties.

Europa series – front: The emerald number and the right side of the main image are clearly 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.