Border security and law enforcement authorities are being urged to increase their investment in anti-counterfeiting devices as the trade in fake Covid 19 documents grows.

Latest news reports indicate an ‘explosion’ in the underground trade in counterfeit documents, says the International Hologram Manufacturers Association, with fake vaccine and test certificates available for as little as GBP25 growing exponentially. Indeed, research by a cyber security firm* reveals more than 1,200 vendors operating worldwide, offering false documents.

In the UK alone dozens of people continue to try to enter the UK every day using fake Covid test certificates in an attempt to circumvent current entry requirements. The EU’s cross-border law enforcement agency Europol has warned that scammers are producing and selling fake negative coronavirus test certificates in airports, stations and online around Europe.

Counterfeiting is a multi-billion-dollar global problem but the rise in fake Covid documents is very concerning, says the IHMA, as criminals take advantage of people who might be desperate in the current situation.

It’s urging supply chains and authorities to review how they tackle the threat before the situation exacerbates further and look at authentication and verification technologies such as readily available holograms to better protect people and document distribution channels.

An IHMA poll revealed that that almost 50% of manufacturers and suppliers of holograms had seen an increase in demand from customers, specifiers and end-users for devices and technologies in the face of the pandemic.

Dr Paul Dunn, chair of the IHMA, said: “The pandemic continues to offer opportunities for criminals, who are clearly and effectively infiltrating global supply channels, deploying scams and counterfeiting measures to trick consumers, damage legitimate trade and undermine confidence.

“Supply chains must be bolstered with countries enhancing their anti-counterfeiting plans, which could include the introduction of harder hitting anti-counterfeiting legislation and strategies.

“The use of track and trace programmes featuring security devices for instance could prove especially helpful in proving the authenticity of test documents and Covid passports. This can be very effective, reassuring those in law enforcement as well as consumers that test documents are both genuine and secure.”

The use of well-designed and properly deployed authentication solutions, as advocated by the ISO12931 standard, enables examiners to verify the authenticity of a legitimate product, differentiating it from fake products coming from counterfeiting hot spots in Asia and eastern Europe. Even those that carry a ‘fake’ authentication feature can be distinguished from the genuine item if that item carries a carefully thought-out authentication solution.

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Paul Dunn is chairman of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association. He has been involved in the Optical Security industry for 30 years with an array of experience in teaching and technology development, and is currently Director of Technology Innovation at OpSec Security Ltd.

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