Police alert over criminals selling fake negative Covid test results

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EUROPOL, the EU’s law enforcement agency, has warned that criminals are selling fake negative Covid-19 test certificates.

It has raised concerns it would allow people to cheat travel restrictions and get into the country without actually being tested for Covid-19.

To contain the spread of the Covid-19, the UK is obliging passengers to present a proof of negative Covid-19 test to be allowed entry.

The UK requires that all arriving passengers provide verifiable proof of a negative  test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

The measure generally concerns passengers travelling by air and in some cases, international train and coach traffic.

But there is warning that criminals are now operating from airports, online and through messaging apps to sell counterfeit documents showing a negative Covid-19 test.

These documents typically bear the name of a genuine laboratory and are highly convincing.

Several cases have emerged in open sources of fraudulent COVID-19 test certificates being sold to travellers.

The latest case of detected bogus test certificates was reported from Luton Airport in the UK, when a man was arrested trying to sell false COVID-19 test certificates.

The suspect, in his 30s, was arrested last week on suspicion of fraud by false representation and released under investigation.

Earlier reports including the arrest of a forgery ring selling negative test results to passengers at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France.The amount charged for the fake test documents ranged between 150 and 200 euros.

Europol says that in the UK, fraudsters were caught selling bogus Covid-19 documents for £100 faking the name of a genuine laboratory on the false certificates In December 2020, a fraudster was apprehended by the Spanish National Police for selling fake test results for 40 euros.

And in the Netherlands, scammers were discovered selling fake negative test statements for 50 to 60 euros through messaging apps.

Europol received additional intelligence on the alleged use of a mobile application by the a group of criminals based in Ireland but operating internationally which allows members to manually falsify test results.

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The European police agency said members of the Rathkeale Rovers gang, who operate in several European countries, are using a mobile phone application to “manually falsify test results” which are then sold onto travellers for hundreds of euro each.

Europol said: “The detection of fake Covid-19 negative test certificates confirms that criminals – be it organised crime groups or individual opportunistic scammers – seize profitable opportunities once they arise.

“As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the COVID-19 situation, it is highly likely that production and sales of fake test certificates will prevail.

“Given the widespread technological means available, in the form of highquality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents.”

The Rathkeale Rovers, which is based in the Limerick town of the same name and operates internationally, is one of several groups involved in the activity across Europe.

It is understood the Irish criminals’ activity is chiefly based in the UK. Members of the gang have previously been arrested for money laundering, smuggling, drug trafficking and burglary.

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