The number of counterfeit Euros in circulation is getting higher each year. In response, the German retailer's association is pushing its members to invest in money-checking machines.
Retailers have been stunned at the increasing quality of the fake euros
For counterfeiters, nothing beats a 50 euro bill. The note is by far the most copied of the seven euro bills, which first went into circulation on Jan. 1, 2002.
According to new figures released by the European Central Bank, 62 percent of the 259,000 counterfeit notes pulled out of circulation in the first half of 2005 were 50 euro notes. The 20 euro bills followed a distant second, making up 16 percent of the seized notes.
But it's not the type of note that is bothering police and retailers, it's the fact that the number and quality of counterfeit euros remains alarmingly high. In 2004, the record year for counterfeit notes, 594,000 bills were pulled out of circulation within and outside of Europe. That meant a loss of 34.4 million euros.
Number is increasing
The number of bills have gone up from the last half of 2004, with 6,000 more notes being confiscated across the 12 European countries that use the euro in the first half of 2005. And that statistic doesn't even reflect hordes of bills discovered by investigators cracking Eastern European counterfeit rings. Europol reported in Spring that police agencies across Europe had seized more than 900,000 counterfeit bills worth 45 million euros in 2004, an increase of more than 60 percent.
These are real, but police seized more than 900,000 counterfeit bills across Europe in 2004.
"We thought we could close down all the counterfeit departments," Cologne prosecutor Egbert Bülles told the Kölner Rundschau newspaper, reflecting on the time when the euro was introduced as the most secure bill in the world. Following a series of massive seizures in his city in April, Bülles said the number of counterfeit cases have "increased greatly."
Police authorities say France has confiscated the most counterfeit notes, followed by Italy, Spain and then Germany.
Retailers shocked over quality
Retailers, meanwhile, have been stunned at the quality of the counterfeit notes, something police attribute to the increased involvement of major Eastern European criminal rings.
"We have been observing that the quality … has been getting better," a spokesman of the retailer's association HDE said in an interview.
Until now, most retailers use small boxes designed to weed out fake bills with UV light. But the HDE is now urging retailers to buy more expensive gadgets that are more effective.
"Almost all the big businesses have such boxes, but there remain major deficits by smaller retailers," HDE told the Berliner Zeitung on Tuesday.
Up to 40,000 bills of the 293,000 pulled out of circulation this year have come from Germany. But the HDE has warned against blowing the problem out of proportion.
UV rays might not catch all counterfeit notes.
"The risk of getting a fake note is greater in other states, than in Germany," HDE spokesman Hubertus Pellengahr told the Berliner Zeitung.