Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media

Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
Credit: Belga

As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media.

The CST will be implemented throughout Wallonia from 1 November, as it already is in Brussels, and one event organiser told La Meuse that they’ve already seen people trying to subvert the system.

“There are many more than we think,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“Sometimes it's fake CSTs, sometimes people try to get in with the QR code of an expired test, or with the photocopy of a friend's QR code. I've even seen someone try to get into a party with the QR Code of a test that was positive.”

Offers for fake CSTs appear on social networks like Snapchat or Facebook, which in turn direct people to encrypted messaging services like Telegram, Signal or WhatsApp to complete the purchase.

A person looking to buy a fake CST can often find an option to do so easily and quickly, with prices starting at €200.

“He will then receive a CST in PDF or paper format, in his name, with a QR Code that will pass the detector,” the source said, explaining that the fake QR code can duplicate an existing identification key.

“It’s actually quite simple to set up, and through technology available today, it's virtually undetectable,” he explained.

Not every forged CST is created equal - some are easily detected as fraudulent, often made from photocopies of real QR codes shared on social media, which is why people with legitimate CSTs are advised to never share their own.

“A conscientious event organiser will check not only the CST but also the identity of the person in order to cross-check the data on the CST,” the event organiser told them.

“Without this, it is very easy to defraud or to pass with someone else's QR code.”

Journalists were able to find an offer for a fake CST that asked them to message a French number on WhatsApp. The seller promised fast delivery (within 48 hours) and discounts for bulk purchases.

The risks are great: a person with Covid-19 who illegally enters an event with thousands of people using a fake CST can create a supers-preader event with dire consequences.

Fake CSTs are already circulating in Wallonia, both in rural areas and in big cities.

A magistrate said they expect it to only increase after the start of November, when CSTs become mandatory in much of that region.

“Using a false CST is an offence punishable by law,” the magistrate said. “We are talking here about forgery.”

The consequences in the event of an established offence include a visit to the criminal court, where the person could be fined €2,500 or even receive a prison sentence.

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