Ink-stained banknotes

The ink on ink-stained banknotes is from anti-theft devices, also known as intelligent banknote neutralisation systems (IBNS), which are activated upon the commission or attempted commission of robbery or theft or other criminal act.

IBNSs are embedded in protected cash containers, such as ATMs or safes in cash transportation vehicles, to make stolen banknotes unusable and worthless, thus reducing the risk for retailers, banks and other professional cash handlers of becoming victims of crime.

When a banknote is stained by an IBNS, the security ink soaks into the banknote and leaves traces which are normally more pronounced on the edges of the banknote. The colours of the most commonly used security inks are bright violet, green, blue, red or black.

The chemicals that criminals use to wash the banknotes when trying to remove the ink can change the colour. As a result, the banknotes’ original colours could also be altered, and some security features may be damaged, or may even disappear.

Genuine euro banknotes that have been stained by an IBNS upon the commission or attempted commission of a criminal act can be exchanged by the Bank of Greece only at the request of the rightful owner who was the victim of the criminal act that led to the staining of the banknotes.

Do not accept ink-stained banknotes in transactions. Refuse bleached or discoloured banknotes, as criminals have most likely tried to remove IBNS ink stains by washing or bleaching the banknotes. If you have accepted an ink-stained banknote, you should bring it to your bank or the Bank of Greece, letting them know how you got it. If the ink stains are from an IBNS, you are not entitled to a reimbursement.

When the competent services of the Bank of Greece know or have sufficient reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed, they shall refuse to exchange ink-stained banknotes and shall withhold them, against acknowledgement of receipt, as evidence to be presented to the competent police authorities to initiate or to support an ongoing criminal investigation.

Legal framework

  • Decision of the European Central Bank (ECB/2013/10) of 19 April 2013 on the denominations, specifications, reproduction, exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes
  • Bank of Greece Circular no. 445/10.06.2014


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