Support our mission
Are the euro coins on the counter real? With technological advances in reproduction machines, it's hard to tell.
Are the euro coins on the counter real? With technological advances in reproduction machines, it's hard to tell. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — There’s a chance the 2-euro coin in your wallet is a fake — or worse, that your 20-euro bill is bogus.

With technological advances in reproduction machines, it’s getting harder and harder for even experts to discern between fake and real currency. Conversely, officials say it’s easier and easier for crooks to produce counterfeit cash.

Wednesday, Italian police in Naples busted a counterfeit money ring said to have manufactured upward of 5,000 coins a day, according to Italian news reports and officials.

“From what we are hearing from the Carabinieri, it is difficult to distinguish the counterfeit coins from real coins,” said Debbie Rocco, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent who works out of Naval Support Activity Naples and closely with Italian officials.

“The problem of controlling this illegal activity is aggravated by technological advances in printing and by reproduction machines,” she said in an e-mail.

In Wednesday’s raid, police arrested four men said to be operating out of two garages and a workshop in Naples. The coins were pressed in the garages, and official-looking, anti-counterfeiting marks were added in the workshop, according to Italian news service ANSA.

Police seized minting machines the alleged criminals used to make 2-euro and 50-euro-cent coins, ANSA reported. It added that in January 2002 — when the first euro coins appeared — Naples came out with Europe’s first fakes.

In Wednesday’s raid, Italian police were tipped off to the coin manufacturing ring, Rocco said. “We don’t have any information that there were any flaws [police] picked up on. That could be the case, but we don’t have any information to support [whether] there were or were not flaws.”

Unsuspecting people in possession of fake money are out the value of the currency.

“Unfortunately, thousands of citizens are victimized by the criminal who makes or passes counterfeit currency, coins or other government obligations each year,” Rocco said.

She said some businesses have machines that can detect whether the currency is counterfeit, and can either refuse to accept the money or confiscate it.

The problem is not just an Italian one. Twelve nations in the European Union — as well as several others by special agreement — use euros, and they circulate easily in all the countries.

Rocco said she has fallen victim to the counterfeiting.

“When my family and I went to Paris, a business handed us back a 20-euro bill and said it was counterfeit,” she said. “It is out there and it can affect all of us if it is passed to us.”

Italian and European Union law enforcement officials have the lead in investigating cases, she said. However, anyone suspecting he or she has counterfeit euros can report it to local members of the NCIS or Criminal Investigation Command.

Is it real?

€ Feel it. Real ones have “raised” print that give them a unique texture.

€ Look at the banknote and hold it up to the light. The watermark and security thread are visible from either side.

€ Tilt the banknote. On the front, the 5, 10, and 20-euro notes have a shifting image on the hologram foil strip. The higher-value notes (50, 100, 200 and 500 banknotes) feature a hologram foil patch in the bottom right hand corner.

€ On the reverse side, if you tilt the banknote, you can see a glossy stripe (on the 5, 10 and 20 banknotes) or color-shifting ink (on the 50, 100, 200 and 500 banknotes).

Sources: European Union; European Central Bank


stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up