By: Radhakrishna N S
By Nadeem Badshah
OLDER Asians have been warned against buying expensive coronavirus tests and falling victim to frauds.
Some sellers have been offering PCR (polymerise chain reaction) checks for more than £300, and fake testing kits and certificates in person or on social media, experts have said.
Having a swab of the throat and nose can cost around £120 on the high street. Drive-through centres by Gatwick airport charge £60 for PCR tests for travellers, while at other airports it is £80-£99.
Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson for health and social care, told Eastern Eye: “Those who must travel internationally should be wary of purchasing fraudulent tests online. Always do your research and use an accredited provider. Some offers on social media can be fake.
“We support testing for international travel, but we are certainly sympathetic to those who must travel abroad for funerals, caring duties or on medical grounds.
“The government should consider waiving the cost of these tests as the price tag would be prohibitive to many travelling for necessary but unfortunate reasons. In addition, people grieving loved ones must get additional support if they are forced to quarantine away from home.”
West Midlands Police is probing an allegation of fraud that a teenager from Birmingham provided a bogus negative PCR test for £80 that he copied from a centre in Pakistan. He is also accused of selling a fake PCR test via Facebook for £60 using details of a London clinic.
Ramesh Verma, founder of the Ekta Project Asian elders group in London, told Eastern Eye: “I have heard quite a lot about it [fraud]. People are becoming aware. My son paid £175 for a private test here for a job in Italy.
“In my group, Sikh Women’s Alliance, I told them to go to their GP or pharmacy for advice. People are just trying to make money. They shouldn’t take this offer at all.”
A man was arrested at Luton Airport in January after being suspected of selling fake Covid test certificates.
A spokeswoman for Action Fraud said: “Currently, there are only a small number of reasons you can legally travel. If you require a coronavirus test to travel for one of these reasons, you should make sure you’ve done your research before purchasing a PCR test online.
“Check the reviews of the site you are buying from and use a credit card if possible as this will offer you more protection if something goes wrong.”
It comes after Europol, the EU’s police agency, warned last month that scammers were producing and selling fake negative coronavirus test certificates in airports, stations and online for around £100.
Europol said: “As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the Covid-19 situation, it is highly likely that production and sales of fake test certificates will prevail.
“Given the widespread technological means available … fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents … Member states should be vigilant.”
Many nations require UK passengers to show a negative PCR or antigen Covid-19 test as a condition of entry to the country.
Countries including Spain and the Canary Islands, Greece and Cyprus will only accept tests taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Some including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Italy offer free testing on arrival, but travellers have to quarantine until they get their result.
Portugal, Italy and Greece all state that only a swab test is permitted, while Australia says that PCR saliva tests are accepted if supervised by a medical professional.
Facebook said it bans content that tries to exploit the pandemic for commercial gain, including posts that promote the sale of Covid tests.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, you must contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Visit www.gov.uk/travel-abroad for the latest travel advice during the pandemic.