Safe Socialization and Travel – How to Cope COVID Test Scams?

With COVID variants emerging at a rapid pace, countries around the globe have made changes to their travel policies. To practice safe socialization, many countries have adopted new changes in travel restrictions. Passengers should now present a negative PCR test to reduce their chances of carrying the virus. Meanwhile, the world continues its struggle against the global crisis, bad actors are busy pursuing their malicious intentions. Fake COVID-19 test reports are becoming widespread since the new travel requirements came into place. This calls for more robust and automated solutions to take down ill-made documents used by passengers at airport check-ins. 

Fake COVID Tests

Why did Travel Restrictions Increase?

The first variant of the Covid-19 discovered in the UK as B.1.1.7 has increased concerns of global authorities. Since the virus is emerging, it is difficult to say which variant is more infectious. As a result, travel authorities have emphasized safer passenger onboarding by verifying negative COVID tests. The report should be at least 72 hours recent and done by an authorized laboratory to guarantee clearance. Moreover, a few countries have also placed a quarantine requirement regardless of what the test results suggest.    

Fake COVID Tests – Global Cases

Criminals are using technology in illicit ways to deceive people by creating forged and manipulated negative COVID reports. People willing to go overseas often head to the black market to buy these documents to get travel clearance. The recent arrests provide evidence that not all tests results displayed at airports would be authentic. The European Union’s law enforcement department Europol says that “Sale and production of falsified test reports will continue to prevail as long as the travel restrictions are in effect.” A few such cases listed by the Wall Street Journal are listed below:

  • Last year, the police caught seven people for selling counterfeit COVID certificates at the Charles de Gaulle airport in France. The police traced the suspects though a passenger travelling to Ethiopia and found almost 200 fake tests. 
  • In January, Indonesian law enforcement authorities arrested eight people for selling fabricated negative COVID tests. Another reported arrest caught 15 people offering a $70 negative test under a former healthcare worker who obtained a soft copy of a real certificate. 
  • A government-led institute in the Philippines warned that fraudsters impersonating its employees are trying to sell fake Covid-19 tests. 

Current Landscape of COVID Verification

To deal with the global health challenge, passengers arriving at airports have to take part in manual COVID verification. These checks often come with potential human errors and the inability to spot forged documents created using high-end technology. Fraudsters use sophisticated ways and means to create fake Covid-19 test reports and sell them to passengers. Verifying home-printed and fake Covid tests remains a challenge, even if passenger information is obtained beforehand. 

Moreover, manual checks come at the cost of additional delays which can make the passenger onboarding experience an uphill task. This is frustrating not for the travellers but also creates challenges for travel authorities. Current verification methods are incompetent and require an automated solution to address the issue.  

Digital Verification of Covid Certificates

Automated solutions not only provide better control to travel authorities but also offer convenience to passengers. Digital verification of negative COVID tests allows the onboarding of legitimate passengers. Some use cases are as following: 

Document Verification

Tests and certificates required to verify that a passenger is Covid-free can now be authenticated using digital document verification. The user submits their COVID test reports which match against data stored on authorized healthcare databases. Results of the Covid report verification are submitted to the user after all authenticity and identification checks are completed.

Touchless Kiosks

Facial recognition systems installed in contactless kiosks at airports are becoming increasingly popular. The passenger scans their face and COVID documents through an automated system to complete the verification process. The information submitted before onboarding is also checked against the data acquired at the check-in site.

Automated Security Systems

Existing airport management systems are now integrating intelligent solutions to scan QR and MRZ codes on COVID-19 tests. At airports, the test reports are verified by the API service integrated into security systems to take down possible forgery. This provides travel authorities to comply with the new travel restrictions while maintaining a sense of security.  

To wrap it up, the rise in COVID has brought new travel restrictions across different parts of the world. Manual verification of COVID tests is a hassle since fake documents are used to bypass checks at airports. COVID test authentication allows quick onboarding of passengers with a legitimate passport and negative test report. 

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Article Author Details

James Efron

James Efron is a tech enthusiast, currently serving as infosecurity management expert at Shufti Pro. In previous roles, he has designed organisational strategies for tech firms.

He indulges in advanced technologies, including AI and big data, often extending a hand to firms experiencing digital transformation.