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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Inside the ECB’s secret lab to sniff out fake euro bills

FRANKFURT, Jan 3 — On the twenty third flooring of the European Central Bank’s towering Frankfurt headquarters, on the different aspect of a safety door, anti-counterfeiting consultants are poring over a few of the greatest fake banknotes in the eurozone.

The room, off limits to outsiders, at first look recollects a highschool science lab — an unusually well-equipped one.

Lined up on the workbenches are 3D microscopes, ultra-sensitive scales and particular units designed to detect round a dozen of the security options embedded in real euro banknotes — and spot the forgeries.

The evaluation performed by the handful of specialists in the room helps the ECB sustain to date with the newest counterfeiting strategies, and hopefully keep a step forward.

Twenty years after the launch of the single forex, the danger of a eurozone citizen holding a fake euro notice is “very slim”, stated Jean-Michel Grimal, head of the ECB’s forex growth division.

And the probabilities have been getting slimmer by the 12 months.

According to the ECB — answerable for issuing bills whereas the central banks of the 19 eurozone nations every produce their very own cash — banknote counterfeiting fell to a traditionally low stage in 2020.

Around 460,000 fake euro bills have been taken out of circulation final 12 months, an 18-per cent drop on 2019.

By comparability, there are at present 27 billion real euro notes out there.

The security of euro banknotes has contributed to the “sturdy belief” eurozone residents have in the single forex, Grimal stated, with latest surveys placing assist for the euro at round 80 per cent.

Helping police

The lab’s largest treasure is a big iron cupboard that requires two folks to open it, every solely realizing a part of the secret mixture.

Inside is a trove of practically 1,000 fake banknotes, from five- to €500 bills, which were studied over the previous 20 years.

Every eurozone nation has its personal counterfeiting detection centre, however Frankfurt holds the most “attention-grabbing” examples as a result of they’re thought-about the greatest imitations, stated Eric Languillat, certainly one of the ECB’s counterfeiting consultants.

The evaluation performed right here additionally helps to give “a quantitative view of the (fake) notes circulating in Europe”, he stated.

The findings are shared with police providers like the EU police company Europol to assist them monitor down counterfeiting networks.

The ECB’s analysis and growth groups, tasked with continually enhancing the high quality and safety of euro bills, additionally feed off the lab’s discoveries.

“If we discover the counterfeiters utilizing sure technological strategies, the R&D groups will take a look at what they will put in place to counteract them,” stated Grimal.

The ECB’s tampering-fighting efforts come at a value, requiring a large annual price range.

But the cash spent “is an effective funding in contrast to the value of a counterfeiting disaster”, stated Grimal.

‘Feel, look, tilt’  

The Frankfurt analysts look at the bills into the smallest particulars.

On one laptop display screen, a real €20 notice is blown up to practically 70 occasions its measurement, revealing the tiny waves inside the “20” determine, resembling the ridges of a ploughed area, and fairly a problem to imitate.

Citizens don’t essentially “have the intuition to look intently at notes,” stated Languillat.

That’s why the ECB has for years inspired the public to use the “really feel, look, tilt” methodology to verify that what they’re holding is the actual factor — no microscope required.

Special printing ensures no different notes really feel like euro notes, holding a invoice up to the gentle reveals the watermark and safety thread, whereas tilting it modifications the hologram and colour-shifting pictures.

“If you look fastidiously at a banknote, the high quality of a fake is mostly fairly dangerous, it must be simple to spot,” he stated. — ETX Studio

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