Fake euro banknotes on the rise

FRANKFURT - The euro is gaining in popularity - at least among criminals.

The European Central Bank said on Friday that the amount of fake euro banknotes rose more than a quarter to 317,000 in the first half of this year from the same time in 2012.

It was the highest level since late 2010.

The ECB nonetheless sought to ease fears among members of the public that they may end up with money.

"The risk of receiving a counterfeit is very low," the ECB said in a statement. There are 15.1 billion banknotes in circulation.

The 20- and 50-euro notes remain counterfeiters' favourites, accounting for more than four out of five fake bills.

While becoming more popular with criminals, the use of the euro has been declining as a reserve currency and in international debt markets due to the sovereign debt crisis, the ECB said earlier this month.