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Do you know how to distinguish the counterfeit banknotes the real ones? What to do if you suspect that you have been handed a counterfeit note?
At first glance they may seem authentic and, in a moment of distraction, it may happen that you are handed (intentionally or not) counterfeit banknotes. Thus, and to avoid damages and problems with the law, it is important to know the elements that allow you to know whether a banknote is genuine or not.
Euro banknotes are considered to be among the safest in the world. Even so, it is not completely impossible to forge them, so, in case of doubt, it is necessary to pay attention to some details. And it is precisely these details, quite sophisticated, that make these banknotes so safe. That is why counterfeit banknotes are so rare and difficult to put into circulation.
Which euro banknotes are in circulation?
To detect counterfeit banknotes more easily, it is important to know euro banknotes well. The oldest are those of the first series, which have been circulating since 2002 and which, as they deteriorate, are withdrawn from circulation.
The second series – the Europa series – began to circulate in 2013. The last banknotes of this series arrived in 2019. That year they also ceased to be issued. those of 500 euros. That is, the most recent series only has notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 euros.
The introduction of the Europa series meets the objective of increasing security and making it more difficult to use counterfeit banknotes. The most recent series therefore has security elements that benefit from technological innovations and that make the counterfeiting process more difficult.
The two series circulate simultaneously. Therefore, before evaluating the authenticity of a banknote, it is essential to know what to look for.
How to detect counterfeit bills?
Receiving a counterfeit note always represents a loss. You cannot change it at the bankbecause it has no value. If you try to give it to someone else, you will be committing a crime.. So, if a note seems strange to you, pay attention to some signs.
The simplest way to check if the note is fake is to compare it with another. The advice is to look for differences rather than trying to find similarities. If you still have doubts, check with experts. That is, take it to the bank or to one of the Banco de Portugal treasuries.
How to check security features?
Touch, observe, tilt. These are the three ways recommended by Banco de Portugal to analyze banknotes. The advantage is that you can do these procedures anywhere.
So the first step is to tap the note. Evaluate the texture and firmness of the paper. The printed elements – the initials of the ECB, the portico or window, the denomination and the tactile marks – have their own roughness.
Another way to spot counterfeit banknotes is to place them against the light. This way you will be able to see them transparently. See if they have watermarks and the security thread. On the 20, 50, 100 and 200 euro banknotes of the Europa series you will see a window with a portrait. In series 1, a front/back register.
By tilting the banknotes you can also check if there are any security elements. What you see depends on the banknote series.
On higher-value series 1 banknotes, you will see a holographic element and a color-changing element. In the lower value ones (5, 10 and 20 euros) you will find a holographic band and an iridescent band (as if reflecting the colors of the rainbow).
Security Elements in the Europa Series
This latest series has more security features designed to make counterfeiting more difficult. Therefore, you should pay attention to:
- Holographic band with a portrait of the mythological figure Europa, the euro symbol, an architectural motif and the value of the banknote. The 100 and 200 euro banknotes also have a satellite hologram and the euro symbol;
- Emerald number, with a luminous effect of movement up and down. When changing the viewing angle, the number changes color: it goes from emerald green to dark blue. On the 100 and 200 euro banknotes this number has euro symbols inside;
- On the 20, 50, 100 and 200 euro banknotes, the portrait window has multicolored lines around the figures or the euro symbol. All banknotes have several multicolored numbers representing the value of the banknote;
- On banknotes of 100 and 200 euros you can see a satellite hologram with various euro symbols that move around the figures representing the value of the note. Symbols become clearer when exposed to direct light.
Equipment that helps detect counterfeit bills
There are also devices that can be useful for detecting counterfeit banknotes. This is the case, for example, of magnifying glass. When using it, you will find microtexts, which must be clear, on both sides of the note.
A ultraviolet light machine allows you to see fluorescent fibers. They are green, blue and red in the 1 series, and tricolor in the Europa series.
The Europa series banknotes also have the particularity of having different characteristics, depending on the type of machine.
if you use a standard UV lamp you will see a yellow tint to the flag stars, small circles, larger stars and other areas of the banknote. The quarter circle in the center and several other areas start to glow green. The horizontally printed serial number and the iridescent band appear in red.
When using a special UV lamp, you will see a yellow color on the flag stars and small circles and orange on the larger stars. The euro symbol becomes visible.
One infrared light device it also helps to detect counterfeit banknotes. On the front of the Europa series banknotes, the emerald number and the right part of the main motif remain visible. On banknotes of 20, 50, 100 and 200 you will still see part of the larger digits. On the back, only the figures with the value of the banknote and the serial number printed horizontally are visible.
In series 1 banknotes, infrared light only makes visible half of the porch or window on the front. On the back you can only see the right serial number. On higher value banknotes, the element that changes color is also visible.
Do you suspect that you are receiving a counterfeit note? You should assume that the other person is innocent and tell him that he may have a suspicious banknote and that he should therefore go to the police or the bank. Even so, and if you don’t know the person, you should act with caution, so as not to put your safety at risk.
If you realize that you have been deliberately given a counterfeit banknote, inform a police authority as soon as possible. Try to retain as much detail about the person as possible so that you can describe them to the police.
If you know that the banknotes are counterfeit and put them into circulation, you are committing the crime of passing counterfeit currency, punished with imprisonment for up to five years. Therefore, if you suspect the authenticity of banknotes or coins, contact the Bank or the police. Do not, in any way, attempt to pass this forgery on to someone else.
Article originally published in July 2019. Last updated in March 2023.
- Electronic Gazette: Decree-Law No. 48/95 – Penal Code (Article 265)