Forgery of money and means of payment

Fraud, economic and financial crimes is one of the EU’s priorities in the fight against serious and organised crime as part of EMPACT 2022 - 2025.

Criminals continue to profit from defrauding businesses and consumers.

The counterfeiting of money remains a serious problem for advanced economies, while electronic means of payment offer criminals new opportunities to commit fraud.

The growth of internet banking and of electronic means of payment has been a double-edged sword for consumers and businesses. While it has lessened the dependence on physical cash, it has also provided criminals with new opportunities to commit fraud.

Forging money

While currency forgery is expected to diminish over time as cash becomes less relevant in the digital age, banknotes will not be replaced entirely by electronic means of payment.

As a result, criminals will continue to forge banknotes. The raw materials used for currency counterfeiting will become even more widely available, particularly on the darknet, the hidden internet that exists beneath the “surface web”.

As the worldwide contact point for combating the counterfeiting of the euro, Europol is involved in all major currency forgery investigations in the EU. The agency coordinates joint investigation teams and provides financial and forensic support, as well as on-the-spot assistance, to law enforcement partners in the EU.

Payment fraud

Fighting payment fraud — in particular that involving credit and debit cards — is one of the three mandates of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3). Through its Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT), it has supported several high-profile cybercrime operations and investigations, such as Operation Imperium, which targeted an organised crime network active in payment fraud.

In its 2016 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), Europol recommended that EU law enforcement focus on the following operational areas:

  • ATM malware and skimming devices
  • E-commerce fraud with a focus on the transport (airlines), retail and accommodation sectors.
  • The acquisition and trading of compromised financial data
  • and credentials:

Europol has also stepped up activity against CEO fraud cases in Europe. In these cases, fraudsters posing as the CEO or a member of the senior management team in a company trick an employee at the company into wiring funds to them.