Fake PCR tests

Traveller Photoshopped PCR test certificate

PCR test certificate

A couple of days ago Telegraph Travel highlighted how easy it was to Fake PCR tests, relating the story of an anonymous traveller who Photoshopped a test certificate for a winter sun holiday in December

The traveller booked flights last minute at the start of last December whilst living in a Tier 2 area – lockdown 2 had just lifted in November. Then London, where she was based, was moved into Tier 4, and international travel was banned. “We immediately contacted our airline, but they told us they wouldn’t be giving refunds because other people in the country could still travel, so how were they to know we were really in London?”

“We were faced with either losing £1,500 a head or taking a risk and going anyway” She and her partner decided to travel in spite of the restrictions. Catching the virus also wasn’t much of a concern for the couple, who aren’t in an at-risk group and felt safe travelling. “I was very lucky last year and managed to go to Europe in the summer, so I knew the extensive precautions that were in place. Personally, I felt comfortable with that aspect. All my anxieties were focused on potentially getting caught and fined,” she says.

Their destination needed a PCR test beforehand, so we bought £140 PCR test kits with a 48-hour guarantee on results and a flight certificate. The day before we were due to leave only her partner received his test results.

“He sent me the PDF of his ‘fit to fly’ certificate (not the one pictured above) and I don’t know if this is the same for other companies, but there was nothing on it that was unique to him, like a barcode. It just had his name, passport number, birthday and the date he’d tested negative. All I had to do was edit the PDF to add my own information and resave it. We compared the two certificate print-outs and they looked exactly the same”.

The traveller justifies her actions because she knew the PCR test would show a negative result – she had already taken a separate test “a few days before as a precautionary measure” which had come back negative.

“Going through the airport, we had a story planned. We picked a place in the UK – Bristol – that wasn’t under Tier 4, to say we lived in. I even had a postcode memorised. I was so nervous, then we got to the check-in desk, and no one questioned us. That was the moment that I went, ‘oh, ok, no one’s asking us anything’ and relaxed.”

PCR test certificate not scrutinised

The traveller was only asked to show her PCR test certificate twice, and it was never taken off her for more extensive checking – “they just wanted to see the word ‘negative’ on it”. Though she couldn’t speak for the possibility of others faking their results, she was sure she wasn’t the only one flouting the Tier 4 travel ban rules: “I heard a lot of southern accents on our flight, I’ll say that.”

The Telegraph reporter observes that reports of faked PCR test results have cropped up over the past few months, as more countries have made them mandatory for arrivals – the UK being the most recent addition to this list. “Honestly, I just edited a PDF, and I’m really not someone who does this kind of thing,” commented Sophie. “What’s stopping people with better computer skills from creating an entire result without needing to pay for the test? It’s definitely concerning.”

COVID-19 in Madeira: daily updates can be found on an earlier post

1 thought on “Fake PCR tests”

  1. I just want to point out two things:
    1-“Catching the virus also wasn’t much of a concern for the couple, who aren’t in an at-risk group..”
    2-“they just wanted to see the word “negative” on it.”


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