Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it.
Now a new type of fraud is making the headlines – the rise of PCR Covid Test fraud. The Coronavirus pandemic has provided the perfect environment for criminal activity, for those so inclined to commit it. The speed at which governments around the world were forced to put contingency measures in place to ensure economies withstood unprecedented society shutdowns left many doors ajar to allow criminal activity, including furlough fraud and bounce back loan fraud to thrive.
PCR Covid Test Fraud
There are several strands to PCR test fraud, including:
- Fake NHS text messages – Many people have received a text message from the NHS stating that ‘you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19’. But be warned – a genuine NHS text will not direct you to a scam website to purchase a PCR testing kit. The NHS will only ask you to order a test via the official GOV.UK site (https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test), while contact tracing only takes place in England via https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/ [note: this site was down as of Sept 2022]. This type of fraud is an example of smishing, a cute name given to the dangerous activity of text-message fraud.
- Lateral flow tests – recent reports from media in East Yorkshire are warning people and businesses, especially those involved in waste collection, to beware of criminals searching through their rubbish bins looking for lateral flow tests. Both negative and positive test results are sought to be sold online to people who want to trick employers and venues. Refuse collectors are even being offered money to allow rubbish to be picked through. One refuse collection employee said: “As far as we know, nobody’s been threatened by these criminals, but it can only be a matter of time.”
- Social media – people are being warned not to share Covid test results on social media or at least to hide the QR code if they do as the behaviour is allowing criminals to create fake vaccination passports. People are being reminded that there is only one genuine Covid passport and this is free from the NHS. The fine for producing a fake Covid vaccination passport can be as high as £10,000.
The UK is not alone in battling Covid-related fraud. The United States is experiencing Covid testing fraud on a large scale. According to the Federal Trade Commission with Coronavirus tests being in short supply warnings have had to be issued regarding bogus kits being sold online. The FDA has also issued a warning to consumers about a tremendous surge in fake or unauthorised home testing kits as well as a proliferation of products offering to treat the symptoms of Coronavirus.
How do I ensure my Covid test or testing kit is genuine?
The adage of ‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is’ is relevant when evaluating whether or not a particular Covid test is authentic. This especially applies in situations where you require a quick turnaround test, for example, you need to go overseas at short notice. To prevent people from ordering fake or unapproved tests the UK government has provided a list of approved Covid private testing suppliers.
If you have symptoms of Coronavirus you are entitled to a free PCR test at any approved site. You can book here. Of course, it goes without saying that if you need medication for Coronavirus symptoms you should consult your pharmacist or GP as there are a prolific amount of counterfeit medications circulating online.
One of the tragedies of fraud is that people who are unaware they have been scammed may face criminal prosecution or adverse consequences, for example being dismissed from their job for presenting a fake lateral flow or PCR test.
If you have been accused of Coronavirus testing fraud it is imperative that you contact an experienced Fraud Solicitor immediately. They can advise and represent you and protect your best interests throughout the investigation/prosecution process.
If you are facing investigation or prosecution for fraud, our Criminal Law Barristers and Solicitors can help. You can contact us through our contact page here.