Fake euro coins on the rise, but fewer phony notes
BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - The value of the euro may have come under pressure in recent months, but there is some good news for the single European currency -- the production of counterfeit notes and coins remains relatively low.
The European Commission said this week that the number of counterfeit euro coins removed from circulation last year rose 8 percent to 186,000. But the number of fake notes withdrawn by officials dropped 12.6 percent to 751,000.
While the number of fake coins may have risen, their total value was only about 300,000 euros ($402,500). The value of counterfeit euro notes came to about 30 million euros.
Those are small sums when compared with the total value of euro notes and coins in circulation, which was about 860 billion euros in 2010, according to the European Central Bank.
"The fight against counterfeit money -- whether coins or notes -- is extremely important for both our economy and our currency," Algirdas Semeta, the European commissioner responsible for anti-fraud activities said in a statement.
"We will continue to dedicate all necessary resources to finding these fakes, in an effort to stamp out the problem across the EU," he said.
By comparison, around two million counterfeit 1 pound coins were withdrawn from circulation during 2009/2010 (2 million pounds equates to $3.17 million), according to Britain's Royal Mint, meaning around one in 36 of the coins was fake.
The 2-euro coin remains the favorite coin for counterfeiters, representing nearly three of every four fake euro coins. Among banknotes, phony 50 euro and 20 euro bills are most common, making up more than 80 percent of all counterfeits.
Recognizing a fake coin is uniquely challenging in the eurozone, as the 17 countries that now use the euro mint the coins in different designs.
But the Commission believes the ratio of counterfeit coins -- an estimated one in every 86,000 -- is small enough that it should not be a "significant cause of concern for the public."
(Writing by Eva Dou, editing by Paul Casciato)
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