SPAIN’S Office for Internet Security (OSI) has issued a warning against online scams asking for cash in return for fake COVID certificates that never arrive.
The body found numerous groups on social media platform Telegram offering fake COVID passports or negative PCR results, costing upwards of €100 usually paid via Bitcoin.
It comes as users have spoken out about paying €200 for a fraudulent EU Digital COVID Certificate only to be blocked from a Telegram group and never seeing the documentation.
“I am one of those who tried to get a certificate without a vaccination record,” the creator of a separate Telegram group for victims of COVID certificate frauds, with some 300 members.
Eleven regions in Spain have passed temporary laws requiring residents to present a QR code that confirms either vaccination status, recovery from COVID or a negative PCR test.
Depending on the region, you may be asked to present a QR code when entering bars, restaurants, nightclubs, care homes, hospitals and gyms.
Spain’s OSI has warned that not only can you stand to lose money when buying a fraudulent COVID certificate, but online scammers might ask for personal data that could be used to further defraud you.
If you have passed sensitive information to one of these groups, the OSI recommends you immediately contact the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos to request your personal details be removed.
It is also a criminal offence in Spain to falsify a COVID certificate, with jail sentences up to three years.
In the Valencian Community of Spain, the regional government has also passed laws to fine some between €60 to €601 for using fake documentation, and between €60 an €30,000 for bars or restaurants that do not control entry or put up information about COVID certificates in obvious places.
Fake COVID certificates have been in circulation since the EU introduced the EU Digital COVID Certificate in July 2021.
One 17-year-old Russian scammer made €20,000 selling fake COVID certificates.
France has opened investigations into 400 groups selling fake COVID passports after encountering ‘thousands’ of falsified documents, and following the death of a woman in Paris who presented a fake COVID certificate and was not given sufficient antibody treatment.
Other scammers in Italy have also made headlines by making a fake COVID passport for Adolf Hitler, which was nevertheless approved by a government QR code scanner.
In Spain there have been no reports of charges against someone using a fake digital COVID passport so far.
On Monday, however, police arrested a man in Granada for refusing to leave a hospital after failing to present a valid QR code when asked.
He was charged with a crime of disobedience.
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