Fake 300, 600, and 1,000 Euro Notes Passed as Real

They’re deliberately fake, made in Germany for a promotion. But they’re being passed as real:

Cologne newsagent Bernd Friedhelm, 33, accepted one of the fake 600 euro notes from an unknown customer who bought two cartons of cigarettes and walked off with 534 euros in change.

Friedhelm said: “He told me it was a new type of note and I just figured I hadn’t seen one before.”

This is why security is so hard: people.

Posted on March 21, 2006 at 6:47 AM59 Comments


Andy March 21, 2006 7:35 AM

Bruce, next time, it would be an idea to indicate the link might not be safe for work. Some of us might have some explaining to do if looking at those images.

Andy March 21, 2006 7:39 AM

I am dubious about this article. How many newsagents would even accept and be able to give change for a 600 euro note? I smell a publicity stunt.

Tim Vail March 21, 2006 7:41 AM

2 posts in 4 minute! My post was in response to the first one. I think some warning might be a good idea.

Espen March 21, 2006 8:00 AM

pardon me for seeming dense here, but were in the world do you work if those pages are NSFW? The Vatican (nope, not if the Sistine Chapel is anything to go by.)

Von Hessler March 21, 2006 8:03 AM

I think if you could get into trouble by just reading the article linked by Bruce, then you really have a harsh working environment. What about a change of work?
I can hardly believe that someone was so stupid to accept the money. That is really sad for that person. And furthermore, as engineer, we like trade-offs. Isn’t the risk not too high for the cheater to be caught, than the actual benefit? Well, he can always say he was just joking.
I strongly believe it is a hoax. It is first in the museum of hoaxes. And furthermore, there is no Bernd Friedhelm in the phone directory for Köln or anywhere else.
So my final thought: no use of noticing soft porn, (I wonder from which countries are previous commenters), but warn against possible hoaxes in your post, Bruce.

rl March 21, 2006 8:17 AM

Subverting a well read security blog to market some soft-porn outrageus Euro imitations? Maybe we want so strongly to believe in human naivete as the bane of security that a social engineering attack has been effective against us.

I agree that the human factor is the most important one… not only on the users side, but in ours as well.

Bruce Schneier March 21, 2006 8:31 AM

“Bruce, next time, it would be an idea to indicate the link might not be safe for work. Some of us might have some explaining to do if looking at those images.”

You have got to be kidding. Where in the world do you work?

stacy March 21, 2006 8:40 AM

I wouldn’t know a real Euro if one bit me; but I wouldn’t accept any currency with an url printed on it (and the half naked people should be a bit of a clue too :-).

As for a ‘work safe’ link… sigh, I hadn’t realised the work place was quite that PC (I was going to use another term because this is way past PC).

Von Hessler March 21, 2006 8:49 AM

I can believe that there are some 300€ printed. But this story of this Köln guy sounds unbelievable. I have been living in Germany for now 6 months and you possibly know how people are suspicious when paying with a 200 euros banknote, they always ask if you don’t have a smaller banknote. And that a kiosk gives back the money on a 600 euros banknote, it is one more flag risen that says to me “it’s a hoax”. Wasn’t there a guy who proposed some revolutionating stem cells a couple of months ago? Mainstreams media don’t always check facts. If you don’t doubt things, you don’t be. I can be wrong about this story being a hoax, I just want to share you my doubts about it.

Juergen March 21, 2006 8:58 AM

@von Hessler:

There’ll always people doing stuff that is so utterly dumb that you can’t believe it – case in point, last week a woman in Austria called the police to complain about wrong-way-drivers on the motorway. Note the plural – she didn’t see one, but lots of cars going wrong way… police had her stop immediately and turn her car around.

jw March 21, 2006 9:07 AM

Jeez, in the US I can’t get the local newstand to take a $2 bill which is real currency.

jsminch March 21, 2006 9:26 AM

Couldn’t this be seen as a failure of administration, as well?
In the U.S. we keep seeing new bills with holograms and different pitures on them but aren’t told by the issuing authority what’s real and what isn’t. I don’t get something in the mail that says “hey, this is what the new $20 bill looks like” so I just accept any new thing as real (within reason). While ten years ago (before they started printing the new money) I wouldn’t have.
I wonder if its the same in Europe, where the issuing authority may be even more removed from the “common man” than they are here in the U.S.

JohnJ March 21, 2006 9:38 AM

There are openly displayed breasts on the 300 Euro note. Regardless of whether or not they are considered “art” as in the “classic art” image on the currency that Adam linked to, they can also be considered pornographic. One man’s art is another man’s porn. Or, more to the point, one man’s art is an HR department’s sexual harassment claim. A NSFW warning is appropriate.

von Hessler March 21, 2006 9:53 AM


At least in Switzerland and France, it has always been well told in newspapers and so on about new banknotes. If you don’t live a bunker, then there is no chance of not hearing about it. And also people talk about such things because there is always polemics about the choice of the banknote figure.
At least in Switzerland, you already know what how will look like the next banknotes (but not in every details, for obvious security reasons) http://www.snb.ch/d/banknoten/noten.html?file=neue_noten/content_neu.html
Sorry, it’s is in German. But Swiss banknotes are changed every 15 years, so to avoid counterfeiting and is well communicated. since as I said, people talk about banknotes choice, since it’s part of a population identity.
I think people were really well informed about the euros banknotes before they were released, the European propaganda was very effective. At least that’s how I perceive things in Western Europe. I don’t see any failure of the administration here.

Zwack March 21, 2006 10:15 AM

Given the state of the US, it might be correct that the links are NSFW.

The problem is that the US is very litigious (possibly even excessively so) and that “a hostile environment” can be defined by some as having photos of women in bikinis in the work place (I wonder if there is an exemption for photos of spouses?). As a result HR departments tend to aim on the “safe side” and so will ban any hint of nudity.

While I can’t see anything wrong with the article, and the bank note photo makes perfect sense in combination with the article, some people might object. Given that this is Bruce’s blog however, it is entirely up to him whether he warns people about links containing naked squid (or whatever).

Given the first amendment, and that America is supposed to be the “Land of the free” it seems surprising to me that a lot of Americans are incredibly puritanical.

As for people accepting them, I would be surprised if I was offered them as the notes are so explicitly sexual, while I have seen nudity on notes before it has always been in a much more artistic/classical context.



najasager March 21, 2006 10:50 AM

“Se non è vero, è ben trovato.” (Italian proverb. “If it’s not true, it’s a good story.”)

Clive Robinson March 21, 2006 11:19 AM

Being a “European” not living in the Euro Zone I have to put up with my local currancy (Sterling).

In the UK we have quite a few banks printing their own currency (England, Wales, Ireland, Channel Islands and at least six in Scotland). So there are a vast aray of notes to contend with. On one occasion we had 5 Pound notes where the 5 rubed off (yes it was real and yes they did remove it from circulation if you still have one they are worth quite a bit to collectors).

However worse is the coins we have 1GBP and 2GBP (say 2 and 4 euro/dolar equivalent) it seams that every couple of months they bring out a new set for some celebration or another. So it would not surprise me if somebody started making their own and passing them around, I guess most people would not notice (including the banks as long as they weighed the correct amount).

Andrew March 21, 2006 11:23 AM

An administrative employee at a nearby hospital was fired a few years ago for displaying a photograph of a woman in a swimming suit in the work area. Never mind that the photograph was of the employee herself participating in a sporting event.

US corporations are so scared of harassment laws being interpreted more and more broadly with every case that everywhere I’ve worked has had a draconian policy in this regard.

Bruce Schneier March 21, 2006 11:55 AM

I never thought for a minute that this story was false. There have been many cases of minimum-wage store clerks accepting obviously bogus currency in the United States. Why would this be less true in Europe?

(My favorite story along these lines is from Hawaii, where someone managed to pay a hotel bill with French Franc travellers checks accepted at par. (I think it was worth 1:5 at the time.) The hotel clerk just looked at the number, and not the currency.)

an Anonymous Coward March 21, 2006 1:00 PM

I would have to agree with Andy. I would prefer a warning that it might not be appropriate for a work environment. As incredulous as it may seem to some people, accidentally viewing this in a work environment could get a reader into some trouble that they would prefer to avoid.

If this seems incredulous to you, then you probably have not worked in a large, corporate environment lately.

Dan Holzman March 21, 2006 1:12 PM

Regarding the NSFW question, I’m a security professional and this is a security blog pointing to a news article about a security attack and the notes depicted are the very form of the attack.

If I have to work very hard at all to explain what I’m doing with that on my computer screen, my manager obviously does not understand why he’s paying me good money, and that doubtless manifests in other areas of my job.

Alun Jones March 21, 2006 1:25 PM

What if you’re not a security professional, and you’re reading this blog because of your personal interests in a break at work, where your employer very kindly allows you to peruse blogs on your own time using work equipment?

Then you have some explaining to do.

That’s not me, obviously, but come on … have some courtesy for the people reading this blog that are in different situations from your own. If it’s going to offend, a simple warning is helpful.

Or should we simply say to our users “this blog is not suitable for work, and we must add it to our blocked list”?

WARNING: May contain squid.

greg March 21, 2006 2:44 PM

So in the USA, you can get fired for a pic of yourself in a swimsuit, but the pornographic music vids are OK? I mean ppl humping for the whole lenght of the song!!

Sheesh, thats why i will probably never live in america

dont_give_in_to_the_prudes March 21, 2006 3:07 PM

its people that give in the rediculous workplace rules who validate them in the ‘minds’ (to use the term loosely) of those who come up with them.

if you work in the middle east, then can you view a website where a woman is dressed in normal business attire ? how long before you can be fired for not being ‘culturally sensitive’ if you view the same website from your office in manhattan, just because your co-worker might be muslim ?

its not just the murrigans, you cant even view the latest tourism advert for australia on the tele if you live in the UK, not because theres a really attractive wench in a skimpy bikini, but because she utters a sentence containing horrific vulgarities, namely “so where the bloody hell are you ?”

theres too many peurile rules made by people with nothing better to do.

MyCat March 21, 2006 3:18 PM

Once I was talking to an RCMP officer who said that sometimes, usually in places far from Canada, people pass Canadian Tire money as real Canadian money. It’s understandable since British American Banknote Co. Ltd, the company that makes Canadian Tire money, used to make the real Canadian money.

(Canadian Tire money is/was given as a bonus to cash customers. It consists of small denomination bills.)

Lee March 21, 2006 3:19 PM

Why not just wait until you get home to look at the links then, instead of at work. Considering the pictures were for a legitimate story I don’t see the big deal.

But yes anyway…in the UK it can be quite the reverse, i.e. try giving someone behind a bar a £50 note. Many places won’t accept them because of the likelihood of forgeries. I hope no one went into that store with a larger amount of cash and got the porn-money as change 😉

Zach March 21, 2006 4:15 PM

I work at a catholic health care orginization with Nuns on the board.


If Bruce would have just mentioned that it was a promotion by a porn company I wouldn’t have followed the link at work. That alone would have been enough warning.

I’d say since this is the first link I’ve seen that was the slightest bit questionable I’ll probably continue following Bruce’s links at work, but I don’t think the request for a disclaimer was out of line.

George Bailey March 21, 2006 4:16 PM

What’s this NSFW crap? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but it seems to me that anything that doesn’t relate to your work is “NS” to be browsed while at work. What difference does it make if there are ‘naughty’ pictures?
It’s work. Quit screwing around and get back to it. Do your recreational browsing at home.

Nigel March 21, 2006 4:18 PM

My question on this story goes, is the person who gave the change liable for the €580 loss, if not then perhaps this story might not be as simple as it looks.

Wrest of world March 21, 2006 6:39 PM


“And the rest of the world thinks Americans are stupid…?”

Yes we do. What’s your point?

Anonymous March 21, 2006 9:53 PM

To George Bailey it may be relate to work as education, but try to explain it to a drill sergeant from HR.

I don’t know but “big-breasted nude women” may hit some keywords in the web supervision program.

I have in fresh memory incident when our IT department was reporting on six employees about browsing questionable material.
It was triggered by an headline article about pedophiles published on BBC website.

Employees were reported to HR because the web filter found word pedophile in traffic coming to their computers.

It did not meter that the hit was at about 12:30 AM when they were not at work place.
The whole incident was caused by Mozilla automatically checking RSS feeds of BBC.

Nathan Jones March 22, 2006 12:44 AM

I sometime wonder what would happen if I were to try and spend my $5 coin. Australia uses notes for $5, but a legal tender $5 coin was minted for some special occasion.

Should the shopkeeper accept the coin because it appears to be legal tender, or should he turn it down because it’s unfamiliar (and doesn’t have a spot to go in the cash try)?

marc March 22, 2006 2:18 AM

Just the facts concerning a very old story
The exact origin of this story could be found in the 2003 (yes, 2003 !) “fake money report??? written by the Swiss police
(and you bet the Swiss authorities are competent enough on this peculiar subject).
You can find the chapter concerning those “erotics bank-notes??? if you launch a “search??? within the pdf file with the string “Billets fantaisistes???. This chapter explains that the 300 Euros note has been confiscated by the german police during an operation launched in 2001 (the 300 Euro was considered too similar compared with the 100 euro one… that’s probably a kind of civil servant sense of humour). The domain name of the German company is not available anymore, but you can still buy some of those notes on ebay. All that stuff has in fact never been “real fake money???. I think the idea came from an old European joke : “Hi, can you give me the change over 300 ? Sure ! Do you prefer 2x 150 4 times 75 ???? (none of those values could be found, even with the “ancient??? currencies, Deutch Mark, French or Belgian Francs, a.s.o.)
From time to time, journalists have “holes??? in their pages… and they must re-heat some old cold stories.

siljeal March 22, 2006 2:30 AM


No, it’s not a failure of the administration. The Euro is a very new currency, and before it was introduced, there have been several campaigns explaining what the new currency will look like, and what to look out for. While the coins have a side that is different for each nation, the bills are the same all over the Euro-Zone. To prevent stuff like that.

betabug March 22, 2006 2:41 AM

“As incredulous as it may seem to some people, accidentally viewing this in a work environment could get a reader into some trouble that they would prefer to avoid.”

Judging from that work environment you describe, you are already deep, deep in trouble.

Arturo Quirantes March 22, 2006 3:05 AM

IMHO, either the guy who took the 600 euro note is stupid enough to qualify for a presidency in Europe/USA, or the story is a complete hoax. Most places in Spain won’t even accept 100 euro banknotes for risk of counterfeiting, and if they do they’ll look at it from every corner. And that German jerk took a 600 euro note, just like that?

On a different -and real- note, some time ago it was found that some guys used Thai 10-bath coins to pay in stores and cash machines. Looks like the makes of those coins also mint 2-euro coins. See yourselves:

http://thailandforvisitors.com/general/money/c10baht.jpg (1o bath)


The trick is, the 10 bath = 0.02 euros!, so if you’re not careful, or if the coins are to be used on machines, this is a good way to multiply your money’s worth!

I even heard the police discovered large amount of 10-bath coins being imported into the countre but, as they were legal currency from a legal state, there was little they could do about it (this one I cannot confirm).

David Cantrell March 22, 2006 5:23 AM

Johnj’s contention that “Regardless of whether or not they are considered “art” as in the “classic art” image on the currency that Adam linked to, they can also be considered pornographic” is, I suppose true. Of course, I expect that there are people who consider this photograph to be pornographic too because the charming young lady hasn’t draped a tent over herself. There is a technical term for people like that. We called them “arsehats”. They should be ignored.

guy not in the US March 22, 2006 8:06 AM

There are persuasive cons who will try and pass notes and there are quaint shop clerks who will fall prey, not surprising. The amazing thing here are the comments indicating how so many America adults are so utterly fearful of their corporate bosses. I had no idea the erosion of privacy and individual rights in the US had gone so far.

PIPOPAK March 22, 2006 8:18 AM

About the NSFW stuff: remember that they can fire you only once, so they better enjoy it. I work under a conservative short-minded christian and have a great time pissing him off as much as possible . pipopak.

piglet March 22, 2006 10:59 AM

It is unimaginable that a kiosque owner would give 534 Euros change, even if he is stupid enough not to spot the hoax. The police report confirms the one case mentioned in all the other reports. However, the police have no way of knowing whether the story is true. Maybe the guy made it up himself?

According to http://www.falschgeld-infopoint.de/A0211.HTM#300-Euro-Schein,
the hoax Euro notes seem to date to 2002 and were soon discontinued. This is obvious because it is still a criminal offense to copy money, even if it is done without fraudulent intention. I’m surprised that they got away without criminal prosecution. I’m not sure whether they might not be held responsible for fraud committed with their hoax money.

MSB March 22, 2006 4:21 PM


“According to http://www.falschgeld-infopoint.de/A0211.HTM#300-Euro-Schein, the hoax Euro notes seem to date to 2002 and were soon discontinued. This is obvious because it is still a criminal offense to copy money, even if it is done without fraudulent intention. I’m surprised that they got away without criminal prosecution.”

Was there a copying of money? The notes don’t look like the Euro notes I’ve seen, and they don’t even say they are money. Their “denominations” are unsual for currency. And their “currency unit” is, apparently, Euro Eros.

Jim Hyslop March 23, 2006 8:50 AM

“In the U.S. we keep seeing new bills with holograms and different pitures on them but aren’t told by the issuing authority what’s real and what isn’t.”

The Canadian Mint goes to great lengths to ensure that retailers and the general public are aware of the anti-counterfeit measures embedded in Canadian notes. New note designs get lots of news coverage, and the Mint prints reference cards that many retailers put in plain view, for easy reference by both the clerks and the customers. Maybe someone needs to suggest this tactic to your Mint.

Prosfilaes March 24, 2006 11:18 PM

Working at Wal-Mart in the US, the US Mint has provided posters showing the new $10 bills and detailing the security features. Of course, we’re only supposed to check with the counterfiting-checking pens and not worry about any of the nice new features.

rob March 29, 2006 7:29 AM

You pathetic americans! Your country is out of control.

Naked people are all around you (under their clothes). Your attitude towards nudity and sex is 100 out fo date.

It may be true that you can get fired for viewing “questionable” content, but that doesn’t mean that fact should dictate how others must behave, or how they should present “questionable” material. In such a case, it is your work environment which is SICK, and you are asking, (demanding, really) that people not subject to your sick requirements adapt themselves to your sick requirements.

The human body is a part of life, no matter how hard you try to deny it.

Maybe you should instead ask yourself what can be done about a country that has apparently used the death penalty on common sense…


[quote from Sam the Eagle from the Muppets]
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is I – Sam the American Eagle.

I would just like to say a few words about “nudity” in the world today. And I for one am just appalled by it.

Why, did you know that underneath their clothing the entire population of the world is walking around completely naked? Is that disgusting? And it’s not just people, although goodness knows that’s bad enough. Animals too, even cute little doggies and pussy cats, can’t be trusted. Underneath their fur – absolutely naked!

And it’s not just the quadrupeds either. Birds too – yes, beneath our fine feathers, birds wear nothing! Nothing at all. Abs… oh m… could someone, hand me a robe? … Mmmhmm.

Alan July 23, 2006 11:16 AM

In the UK we have quite a few banks printing their own currency (England, Wales, Ireland, Channel Islands and at least six in Scotland)

NO bank in Wales prints Banknotes, they is no such thing as the Bank of Wales they use English banknotes, and I hope the reference to Ireland you mean Northern Ireland as the Republic of Ireland isn’t in the UK and doesn’t use Sterling, also 6 banks in Scotland what are they then, I can only come up with the Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank.

gentlemaneyecandy January 14, 2007 2:50 PM

The gentleman paid US$ 4.29 per pack for the cigarettes. You can get them much more economical in North Carolina, USA

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via https://michelf.ca/projects/php-markdown/extra/

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.