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EDITIONS
Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Euro safety worries fade away
German till
German tills: Hardly a Deutschmark in sight
By BBC News Online's Tim Weber in Munich, Germany

The past three days have been good to Eduard Liedgens, the euro co-ordinator for Bavaria's police force.

Across Bavaria, one of Germany's largest states, there have been no reports of fake euro notes or coins, hardly any fraud, and the number of fake Deutschmark notes has not escalated either.

Bavarian police

I've been very pleasantly surprised how smooth the launch went

Eduard Liedgens

And, according to Mr Liedgens, his colleagues at other police forces in Germany have made the same experience.

So far, German police have seen only one - poorly made - fake 50 euro note, which was found on a train near Siegberg.

A case of a forged 500 euro note was reported later from Alzey in western Germany.

"I've been very pleasantly surprised how smooth the launch went," says Mr Liedgens, who worked four years on preparations for the euro launch.

"The euro is a safe currency", he says, listing the notes' security features: The watermark, the silvery hologram, the security strip, the numbers that become visible only held against a light, and the numbers that change colour when the note is tilted.

Flood of fake Deutschmarks

There had been fears that criminals could flood the country with euro fakes, tricking people unfamiliar with the new currency.

But a massive information campaign and the late release of the real euro bank notes to the public created enough of a safety margin.

Instead, there have been problems with a currency the Germans know well enough - the Deutschmark.

In the past, Bavaria's police force usually encountered 400 to 500 fake bank notes a month.

During the autumn of last year, this more than tripled to 1,500 to 1,700 cases.

High value bank notes of 100, 500 and 1,000 Deutschmarks were fraudsters' favourite targets.

But since the euro launch, there has been no increase in the number of Deutschmark fakes.

No fear of fraud

Fear of fraud is not high on the list of euro worries amongst the public.

During the first couple of days after the euro launch, people everywhere could be seen closely examining the new banknotes - tilting them, holding them against the light, peering at the holograms.

Josef Meyer, sitting in the Augustiner beer hall, has just checked out the 50 euro note and finds: "It looks pretty difficult to fake."

And Tina Winsch, leaving a shop where she spent her last few Deutschmarks, says she is well prepared to spot any fakes - but then she attended a special training session, because she works in a restaurant.

Taking it easy

Not everybody is taking preparations that seriously.


During the whole of 2001 we did not have a single Deutschmark fake - and I don't expect this to change with the euro

Wolfgang Neubert, Hertie department store

At the Teetruhe, a small tea shop just off Munich's main shopping street, the Kaufinger Strasse, it is the euro's second working day when one of the shop assistants says: "Look at this bank note - the number 50 changes colour when I tilt it."

Neither she nor her boss Helga Neumann appear to be too familiar with the new euro money.

"To be honest, I've been far too busy during the past few days to take a close look at the new money" Ms Neumann says.

Since the shop was set up, back in 1978, they have received not a single fake - "touch wood", she says.

"I don't have the space here at the counter for any of the fancy fake detection machines, so we'll just have to hope that the won't get any fakes."

Her assistant chimes in: "Well yes, we could look for the watermark and suchlike, but I think it would be a bit offensive to our customers if we were to hold every single bank note against the light."

The only fakes they fear are false DM100 notes. But then they hardly get any of those anymore.

Less than 60 hours into the euro's life as a cash currency, and there is hardly a Deutschmark around.

By lunchtime, only three customers had used Deutschmarks. Everybody else paid in euros.

At the Hertie department store, Wolfgang Neubert - in charge of euro preparations - says the fear of fakes is overdone.

"During the whole of 2001 we did not have a single Deutschmark fake - and I don't expect this to change with the euro."

Same old fraudsters

Another police worry that failed to materialise were confidence tricksters, who could have used the euro confusion to strike.

Mr Liedgens says the Bavarian police heard of only a few cases.

In one of them, a pensioner in Munich was conned when a man called at his home, claiming he had to check whether the pensioner had any fake Deutschmarks, to make sure they were safe for the euro changeover.

When the man left, the money was gone.


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