Published: 01.04.2022

Aleksandrs Antiņš, Head of the Cash Technology Division of the Cash Department, Latvijas Banka

The year 2021 reconfirmed that the euro is the safest global currency. The number of counterfeit euro banknotes and coins identified in circulation was at a historically low level, i.e. 12 counterfeit euro banknotes per 1 million genuine notes in circulation (by way of comparison: there were 17 counterfeit banknotes per 1 million genuine notes in 2020, but in 2014, when Latvia joined the euro area – 48 counterfeit banknotes per 1 million genuine notes).

The downward trend in the number of identified counterfeits was also observed in Latvia, which already ranks among the euro area leading countries in terms of cash security. In 2021, 703 counterfeit banknotes and coins were detected in circulation, including 497 and 206 counterfeit banknotes and coins respectively. This constitutes a decrease of about 25% compared with 2020 when 931 counterfeit euro banknotes and coins were identified (706 banknotes and 225 coins).

The financial losses caused by counterfeits totalled 27 282 euro (including 26 905 euro and 377 euro due to counterfeit banknotes and coins respectively), constituting a drop of approximately 12% compared with 2020 when the financial losses caused by counterfeits stood at 30 818.5 euro (including 30 415 euro and 403.5 euro due to counterfeit banknotes and coins respectively).

In Latvia, 50 euro notes were the most counterfeited banknotes (229 counterfeits in 2021), followed by 2 euro coins (176 counterfeits) and 20 euro banknotes (140 counterfeits).

In the euro area overall, 347 000 counterfeit banknotes were identified in 2021 (a decrease of around 25% compared with 2020 when 460 000 counterfeit banknotes were detected). In the euro area as a whole, 50 euro and 20 euro banknotes continued to be the most counterfeited ones, jointly accounting for about two thirds of all counterfeit euro banknotes.

These data confirm that the introduction of the euro banknotes of the second series, which ended in May 2019, has ensured further improvement of the security of euro banknotes and coins. I would like to praise the individuals and economic operators who take cash security very seriously and are truly at home with the design and security features of euro banknotes and coins. However, one thing I have reiterated year after year and will keep on doing so is the importance of being awake and on the watch when dealing with cash. Although the aggregate statistics suggest that the situation of cash security is very good, each individual case when a counterfeit euro banknote ends up in a wallet hurts the victim of such a crime. Moreover, not only from a financial point of view.

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