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Daily forces Facebook to act after exposing fake PCR test scam

Connor Stringer newFacebook has been forced to act on adverts for fake coronavirus tests thanks to a regional daily’s investigation.

The social media giant says it has removed all ads offering PCR test kits confirming airline passengers as ‘fit to fly’ after being confronted by Brighton daily The Argus.

Argus reporter Connor Stringer discovered “dozens” of advertisements offering fake PCR certificates from as little as £1, including one online laboratory claiming to perform 36,000 tests a month with 90 employees while promising “private and secure results”.

Connor also went undercover to pose as an interested buyer trying to travel to Germany. He was immediately offered a certificate “without the test” for £40 and was sent a forged document certifying a passenger had tested negative for Covid-19 – without ever taking a test – by one fraudster he contacted.

The man told Connor the operation was used to make a “little bit of money” for Friday nights.

The investigation is the latest in a series by The Argus looking at scams and criminal activity on social media.

Last December, Connor and his fellow Argus journalist Jody Doherty-Cove exposed a man for allegedly trying to sell historic lights on Facebook after they were removed for restoration from Brighton seafront.

In March, Connor and Jody were threatened with assault and branded “the enemy of freedom” after confronting a coronavirus denier exposed as the man behind a ‘sex for rent’ advert online.

And last month, an investigation by Connor into date rape drugs being openly sold on the internet prompted the Home Office to pledge action on the matter.

Speaking to HTFP, Connor said: “It’s kind of a theme we’ve been looking at on how social media is used by fraudsters to target people.

“It didn’t take long to find several ads offering these fake test certificates.  These are scammers who are targeting people who couldn’t afford the rule changes and who were desperate to travel.

“My conversation with [the fraudster] was very clear that this was a side operation and these are criminals that are trying to make a quick buck on rule changes and prey on the vulnerable to suit themselves.”

A spokesman for Facebook owner Meta told The Argus: “We do not allow the sale of Covid-19 test kits on Marketplace and we swiftly removed the listing brought to our attention.”