COVID-19 Scams: The Impact of Fake COVID-19 Test Certificates

The coronavirus pandemic presents unprecedented health, social, and economic challenges. The travel and tourism industries are among the most affected sectors. Amid global travel restrictions to contain the virus, COVID-19 tests have become necessary to enable people to travel internationally.

Unfortunately, some travelers are aggravating the already-strained situation by obtaining fake health certificates. What remains unseen is the impact of this behavior. Let’s dig in and explore:

A Public Health Crisis

Strict travel measures requiring that travelers present a negative COVID-19 certificate are in place in many countries around the world to make air travel as safe as possible. Under the right circumstances, the risk of spreading the virus decreases because of this requirement.

However, with passengers purchasing fake certificates to travel, more people with COVID-19 will travel internationally.

This presents a public health crisis by placing other patients on the plane at risk of infection.  It also exposes other people who will interact with the passengers after landing.  This further spreads the virus, including new virus mutations, across borders.

Bad Reputation

Apart from increasing the risk of transmission, fake COVID-19 certificates are likely to project a negative image of a country abroad. Bangladesh is already facing travel bans from Japan, Italy, and South Korea .  This comes after some of its nationals used fake negative COVID-19 tests when visiting these countries, only to test positive upon arrival.

Travelers from India are also facing stringent measures from certain countries and possible bans from others.  These restrictions come after the arrest of a manager of a private laboratory that issued fake COVID-19 certificates to more than 2000 expatriates without testing them.

Criminal Consequences

Many travel companies and law enforcement agencies have begun watching out for possible fake certificates. France, Brazil, India, and Zimbabwe are among the countries that have arrested people involved in selling or presenting fake COVID-19 certificates to bypass travel guidelines.

Take, for example, the criminal gang arrested in France’s Charles De Gaulle airport.  Its seven members faced charges for forgery, conspiracy in forgery, and using forgery. If convicted, they face up to five years’ incarceration and hefty fines for their crimes.

South Africa has also introduced a five-year ban for travelers found with fake negative COVID-19 certificates.

Stricter Measures

Airlines and governments around the world are becoming aware of the problem of fraudulent COVID-19 certificates for traveling. They are looking at stricter measures on COVID-19 testing to prevent fraud. Hawaii, for example, requires that travelers present a digital copy of results from the recommended testing facilities then upload the test result to the Safe Travel’s Hawaii account.

Verification measures are also in place in several airlines and countries to determine the legitimacy of negative COVID-19 certificates.

Countries such as Singapore have looked into implementing digital health certificates to authenticate negative PCR COVID-19 test certificates.  This could set the stage for other governments and airlines to adopt digital verification systems to curb the surge of fake COVID-19 certificates.

Traveling Safely

Airlines and countries relying on tourism have begun cracking down on criminal gangs and travelers using fake certificates to travel around the world.  Combating the use of fake COVID-19 certificates is an essential part of the fight against the pandemic.







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Ronald K. Noble is the founder of RKN Global and currently serves as one of its principal consultants.