Local company warns consumers about purchasing fake negative COVID-19 PCR test results

"This is just a continuing theme of scammers taking advantage of certain situations," says a cybersecurity expert.
SAN FRANCISCO -- A Bay Area-based cyber security company is warning consumers about purchasing fake COVID-19 PCR test results from people out to get your personal information.

They're selling negative COVID-19 PCR test results for as little as $200, with offers to turn the test results around in as few as five minutes, or just one day.

"This is just a continuing theme of scammers taking advantage of certain situations," said Mark Ostrowski, Check Point Software Cybersecurity Expert.

Ostrowski says Check Point Software is seeing an influx of people selling these fake test results as the omicron variant cases continue to grow.

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The fake tests results are for sale on apps like Telegram, where some sellers are even claiming to register the results to a hospital database, so that buyers can use the negative results for travel.

"That's a really big distinction compared to creating fake documents of, let's say, cardstock," said Ostrowski.

The tests are offered for a variety of countries in addition to the United States, like Spain, France and Portugal.

UCSF Professor Dr. Peter Chin-Hong worries about what this could mean for someone using a fake test result to enter the United States.

"There could be future variants that could be more lethal, and if you are bringing in somebody, particularly from another country with a variant like that and you escape border control, you could potentially have serious consequences from a national security perspective," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

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The San Francisco City Attorney's Office launched an investigation into a testing company suspected of operating illegally.

The sellers take payments in cryptocurrency, which isn't traceable, and seem willing to negotiate.

"How much can you afford, you know this is a whole process," one seller wrote.

Check Point Software warns, while a buyer may get what they want in the short run, a negative PCR test result, the person selling it may get something you didn't want to give out in the long run.

"You're providing your personal information to somebody who frankly can't be trusted," said Ostrowski.

"So whether that's your personal information, your credit card info, you're sending Bitcoin from your crypto wallet to a specific address. Think about who you're giving your personal information to, and think about what that could turn into in the future. And that's really the big warning here," he continued.

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Dr. Chin-Hong says the trend speaks to the need for a more standardized system.

"What you're seeing is really the consequences of having a hodge-podge patchwork network of various ways in which you can designate whether you're negative or if you've had vaccines," said Chin-Hong.

A growing market aimed at taking advantage during the ongoing pandemic.

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