Black market for fake Covid passes flourishes in France
People refusing to get COVID vaccines in France are coughing up hundreds of euros for fake health passes in an online black market that has flourished since the government required them to enter cafes, inter-city trains and other public places.
People have had to show proof they have either been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID or have recovered from the disease in order to enter a museum, cinema or sports venue since July.
It was expanded to restaurants, bars, hospitals and trains earlier this month as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to compel people to get vaccinated.
While surveys show most French support the measure, opponents have held protests for five straight weekends.
And a black market for fraudulent health passes has sprung up on Snapchat – despite the risk of jail sentences.
Accounts on the social networking app that rarely last for more than a few days openly advertise their counterfeit documents.
Some ads say: "Your health pass by e-mail in eight to 10 hours maximum," "Vaccination is optional thanks to our service" or "Say no to the vaccine and get a health pass without getting vaccinated."
A 28-year-old event planner said he obtained his fake health pass for 350 euros (US$410). The COVID-19 vaccine is free in France.
He said he isn't anti-vaccine, but that he doesn't feel that young people should be forced to get vaccinated when he believes they aren't particularly vulnerable.
"If COVID-19 still exists when I'm 50 or 60, then yes, I'll get vaccinated," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said getting regular tests to show that he isn't infected wasn't really an option as he risks a positive result which means he couldn't work.
"Security guards told me that even if I am the person organizing the party, if I'm positive, I can't get into my own event," he said.
He said he wasn't worried about getting scammed as he has friends who had already bought fake health passes.
All one needs to do is type in "fake health pass" to find dozens of offers on Snapchat. They can also be found on Facebook, with some apparently paying to have their offers put into user feeds.
One has to provide all the basic information necessary to have real functioning health pass, including a French health system number.
"I send all the information to my doctor contact who registers it in the French national health system database and the phone app for the health pass," said one counterfeiter.
As a health worker – some complicit, others hacked – enters the information into the computer system the person is considered by authorities to have been fully vaccinated and the health pass itself is real, not fake.
French health passes contain a QR code that is scanned by security guards at entrances to check against the national database, so counterfeiters prefer using doctors to fraudulently create real passes that function.
One doctor in southwestern France filed a complaint after discovering that his profile in the health insurance website had been used to make 55 fake passes.