<p>Travel admin costs such as PCR tests can add up</p>

Travel admin costs such as PCR tests can add up

Travel agent under investigation for ‘selling fake Covid test results’

Bolton firm has not been named

Tuesday 02 November 2021 09:24

A UK travel agent is currently under investigation following allegations that it was selling fake Covid test results to customers.

The company, which has not been named by authorities, is based in Bolton and was allegedly selling negative PCR test results claiming to be from a legitimate clinic.

According to Bolton council, “a substantial number of fraudulent documents” were found during a raid on the business.

The documents will now be scrutinised by police to determine whether the firm has broken the law.

Many countries, including the UAE and Thailand, still demand a negative PCR test result from travellers in order to grant entry - and PCR tests can cost anywhere from £45 to £120 per person, per test.

Tests must be paid for by the traveller and taken with a legitimate test provider, with a certificate given as proof of a negative test result - the public cannot use free NHS tests for travel.

Currently, it is your airline that is responsible for checking that you have a legitimate test result.

Bolton Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Hilary Fairclough, said: “Not only has this raid exposed a serious case of fraud, but the quick actions of our Trading Standards team have potentially prevented hundreds more trips facilitated by fake documents.

“It is difficult to overstate the damage that has been caused here: a legitimate business has faced reputational risk and travellers may have been unwittingly spreading a deadly virus.

“At a time when the community has pulled together to fight COVID-19 and keep everyone safe, it is shocking that a small minority have exploited the system for personal profit.

“Once again a successful operation has come about following a tip-off, highlighting that our Trading Standards team works best with the support of residents and legitimate businesses.”

Those selling fake certificates in the UK face a prison sentence. But buying or even attempting to buy a forged certificate is also a crime - using a forged certificate to travel is fraud by false representation.

In April it was reported that around 100 fake certificates were being seized per day, with the Immigration Services Union (ISU) saying it is ‘very easy’ to forge documents.

When asked how border agents were able to verify proof of a negative test, ISU officer Lucy Moreton told MPs on the all-party parliamentary group for coronavirus: “We’re not, is the simple answer; it’s predominately taken on trust.”

Ms Moreton said the easiest way to catch the fake documents was “if there is a spelling error somewhere” but that the foreign language of the certificates made this hard.

She added that the documents are checked against a series of code numbers but “these things are very easy to knock up electronically unfortunately”.

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