4 May 2004
HAMBURG – With growing numbers of forged euro banknotes in circulation, customers can no longer be certain they are getting the real thing from automatic teller machines, according to German police Tuesday.
In Germany’s biggest state, North Rhine Westphalia, customers have claimed in 26 cases over the past two years that a counterfeit came out of an ATM, state police spokesman Frederick Holtkamp said.
“We can’t prove it rock-solid, but we can’t rule it out either,” he said. Every such claim was investigated.
German banks have submitted to a voluntary undertaking to send cash to branch offices of Germany’s central bank for free checking.
The Bundesbank has automated testing machinery that can scan millions of notes a day to detect counterfeits. But the 24-hour ATMs are often restocked by armoured transport companies that, like banks, have an interest in saving the cost of an extra trip.
“There’s a certain likelihood that there are some banks that don’t check the notes,” said Holtkamp.
The European Central Bank (ECB) says 551,287 counterfeit euro banknotes were detected in the eurozone last year, the second year that euro cash was in circulation. Of that number, 321,623 were in the 50-euro denomination commonly issued from ATMs.
In its annual report, the Frankfurt-based bank said hardly any were “good quality” forgeries. “Just about all” the counterfeits could be caught by a normal person applying the ECB’s “feel-look- tilt” check.
This is because genuine notes have a unique “crisp” feel and raised printing. A watermark, security thread and “security register” are visible when the note is held up against the light.
Under light, holograms, an iridescent stripe and colour-shifting inks come into view when the note is tilted from side to side.
The bank is also researching new security features to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters.
Under German law, anybody who finds a counterfeit in their wallet must hand it in to the police without compensation. If the money came from a bank, the customer must then persuade the bank to hand over a genuine replacement note.
“It’s very hard to prove,” said Holtkamp. Banks that used the Bundesbank testing service all the time would deny issuing a counterfeit. But there have been cases where banks had replaced notes “as an exception”.
Subject: German news