COVID-19 Scams: Cases of Fake COVID-19 Certificates to Bypass Travel Guidelines

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Even as COVID-19 has rocked the world, countries have begun opening their borders to allow for economic recovery. However, they have also included measures to prevent the importation of new COVID-19 cases. Some of these requirements include the need for a negative coronavirus test result from within a certain pre-flight timeline.

In spite of the crucial public health need for these requirements, some tourists traveling around the world began presenting fake COVID-19 certificates to allow them to travel. In this article, we will explore some of the cases of people using fake COVID-19 certificates to bypass travel guidelines.

Paris, France

French officials in November arrested a ring of seven for selling fake COVID-19 certificates. The group, six men and one woman, was charging between $180 and $360 to issue a digital certificate of a negative COVID-19 result.

Authorities arrested the group at Charles de Gaulle following an investigation where an Ethiopian-bound passenger was found in possession of a fake COVID-19 certificate. The investigators caught on to the gang in the airport, and authorities charged them with forgery and fraud.

Fernando de Naronha, Brazil

Authorities arrested four domestic passengers visiting the island of Fernando de Noronha for forging negative COVID-19 certificates. The island requires that tourists present a negative coronavirus test certificate taken no longer than a day prior.

These travelers failed to meet the entry requirements.  Instead, they altered the dates on their documents. These travelers allegedly altered their travel documents after they border authorities asked them to submit other samples for retesting. They said they had taken another test and were waiting for the results, but later returned with the forged documents that landed them in jail.

Zürich, Switzerland

A 17-year-old Dutch teenager faked a COVID-19 test to escape quarantine after she tested positive for the virus. Authorities arrested the girl  while she attempted to board a plane to the Netherlands.

Health authorities had ordered the girl to quarantine and notified the Swiss police when they learned of her departure from the area. She admitted to trying to board the flight using a fake coronavirus certificate. Officials returned her to Valais, and she will face criminal charges for forging documents and violating COVID-19 laws.

Brod-Posavina, Croatia

At least 40 people found themselves detained at a border checkpoint in Brod-Posavina after attempting to cross into Croatia with negative COVID-19 test certificates between January 16th and 17th. Croatia has regulations in place that require travelers crossing into Croatia from neighboring countries to present a negative coronavirus test.  Alternatively, they could present  a certificate from their doctor proving that they had the virus previously and had recovered from it.

These fake certificates were the highest caught in one day at the border crossing, with 43 out of the 45 stopped presenting fake certificates. Most of those arrested with the fake certificates were citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result of their actions, the suspects face up to three years if found guilty.

Luton Airport, England

A man was arrested at Luton Airport on January 20th on suspicion of selling fake COVID-19 test certificates. Luton Airport serves travelers from different countries including the UK, Italy, and Bulgaria, all of which require proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Preventive Measures

Authorities around the globe are aware of the increasing fraud in COVID-19 test certificates.  Some have instituted measures to prevent or reduce these cases. However, there are still inadequate measures in place to manage COVID-19 certificates properly.

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