Europol warns about fake COVID vaccination certificates

After previously warning that counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines are a real and present danger, Europol predicts a trade in fake testing certificates will be the next fraud flashpoint.

The agency says it is “very likely” that criminals will step into supply demand for false negative COVID-19 test certificates, as countries start to introduce a negative result as a condition of travel.

Earlier this month, for example, the UK government said international travellers arriving at its borders have to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travelling to the UK by plane, train or boat.

A similar approach has also been used in a number of other countries worldwide, including Portugal, Spain, and France, although the latter has now implemented a total travel ban.

Using high-quality printers and sophisticated software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality “counterfeit, forged or fake documents,” it adds.

There have already been cases of this type of fraud uncovered by police forces. A forgery ring selling negative test results to passengers at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris for €150 to €300 ($181-$362) was recently dismantled.

Meanwhile, in the UK a gang were discovered selling fake documents for £100 apiece (around $137), and a similar operation in Spain was also identified last month, though in that case the fake certs were available for just €40 ($48).

Europol’s warning also says there is alleged use of a mobile application by the Rathkeale Rovers organised crime group – notorious for stealing £57m in rhino horn and jade artifacts from museums – which allows members to manually falsify test results.

Blockchain pilot

One airline – Emirates – has already started trialling a technological solution to counterfeit test results in five of its destination countries – the UAE, France, UK, Spain and the Netherlands.

The company is working with GE Digital and traceability startup TE-FOOD to develop an app – called TrustOne – that incorporates verification of test results using a blockchain system to provide a time-stamped record of a test and its results that should be impossible to alter without being discovered.

The app also helps passengers find testing centres and book appointments, in addition to recording the results.  Lab company Eurofins is providing the testing service for the pilot.

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