- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Counterfeiters are likely hard at work making fake euro notes, European officials warned yesterday.
European officials said they are worried that criminals may try to take advantage of unfamiliarity with the new money to pass off fakes to cashiers and consumers.
For up to two months after the euro's official introduction on Jan. 1, cashiers will have to juggle national currencies and the new euros, which they and consumers will still be getting used to. That creates an opportunity for both professional and do-it-yourself counterfeiters.
"For amateur copies, the most dangerous period is during the dual-circulation period," said Willy Bruggeman, deputy director of the police agency Europol and head of its euro project. "We expect that we will see some amateurs try to test the system."
Amateur counterfeits typically produced by a computer with a scanner and an inkjet printer usually are so crude that a second look easily distinguishes them from the real thing, Mr. Bruggeman said. They already have turned up in small quantities, in attempts to con people into exchanging money ahead of time.
The longer-term threat comes from the professionals, who use big offset printing presses that produce better fakes, he said. They can't equal the print quality of the real money, but their quantities are higher and they can come surprisingly close to duplicating security features such as watermarks.
To slow down the professionals, the European Central Bank decided not to release the bills before Jan. 1. Starting today, banks will sell starter kits to give Europeans a chance to see what euros look like but with coins only. The currency may not be used until Jan. 1.
There are, however, many euro bills already out that counterfeiters could use as guides. The bank notes have been distributed widely to banks and some stores, and several million euros were stolen in robberies of an armored car in Germany and a postal depository in Italy.
To fight euro counterfeiting, European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg signed an agreement yesterday with Europol head Juergen Storbeck to share information and to coordinate efforts by national police.
While acknowledging the potential threat of counterfeiting, Mr. Duisenberg said he was confident security measures incorporated into the design of the new euros should protect consumers.
"Citizens can be confident that the euro is a safe currency and one which few residents will have the misfortune ever to see a counterfeit of," he said at the signing ceremony at the bank headquarters in Frankfurt.
The central bank has been running a public information campaign telling people to "feel, look and tilt" to detect fakes.
The euro, like the dollar, uses special paper and has a raised feel to the printing. It also has holograms, a security thread and color-shifting ink.
It lacks one of the oldest and simplest devices the human face where defects in fake U.S. dollars are often easy to spot.


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