These travelers faked negative COVID tests, got away with it

This potentially dangerous end-around shows a huge loophole in coronavirus travel restrictions. 

In an effort to prevent the further spread of new mutations, many governments have started requiring negative COVID-19 tests from those seeking to fly across international borders — but some passengers have discovered a wildly illegal workaround. 

“I just fired up Photoshop and changed the date,” said one man who admitted to Motherboard that he forged negative COVID test results for a group of friends. “Fun fact, the document [test result] was in French whereas they were in Sweden the day it was supposedly made, but they didn’t see a problem in that.” 

Another recent traveler, who took a vacation to Southern Europe, breached the rule by changing the date on an old test in Microsoft Paint so it appeared to have been collected within the required test time window.

Forgery is a felony in the US, but both said they had successfully gotten away with the crime. 

Others have not been so lucky: This month, 45 people were detained by Croatian police for having fake polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison if they’re found guilty. A 17-year-old Dutch girl was also recently caught with a fake negative COVID-19 test while in transit. 

Travelers complain that test requirements are pricey and say they’re motivated to falsify tests, not due to a lack of respect for the rule, but an aversion to paying for a proprietary PCR. 

“Yeah, motivation is mostly to save money,” one travel test falsifier said over WhatsApp, Motherboard reported, admitting they felt “kind of scared” by the possibility of repercussions, “but nevertheless I think it’s very likely that most Airline workers are not looking out for this type of fraud.” 

A medic collects a swab sample from a traveler at a COVID-19 rapid testing center in an Israel airport on Jan. 21.
A medic collects a swab sample from a traveler at a COVID-19 rapid testing center in an Israel airport on Jan. 21.
AFP via Getty Images

Indeed, an administrator for aviation trade association Airlines for America confirmed to the publication that, to their knowledge, the airline staff who check passengers’ test results do not have any specialized training.