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By Geoff Agombar

Local Journalism Initiative

Last Wednesday, Quebec’s anti-corruption squad (UPAC) warned vaccine passport fraudsters investigators are on the case.

UPAC asked the public to report any such cases Anyone producing, trafficking or using fake vaccine passports could be charged with fraud, corruption, the production and use of false documents under the Criminal Code, or criminal charges under the Public Health Act.

Public security minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed knowledge of at least 150 open cases during a Thursday appearance on Radio-Canada. Guilbault said 30 of those are UPAC investigations of public employees suspected of corruption or attempted corruption. The remainder involve investigations of the public by Sécurité Québec or other police forces.

Reporting in multiple outlets suggests the security loophole is, unfortunately, human nature. Through word of mouth or social media, clients find an employee with access to the vaccine database who willing to accept payment to enter false data. Anyone with access can easily transform a “legitimate” ClicSanté vaccination booking into a “legitimate” QR code “legitimate” by entering false data. As early as last December, the investigative program Enquête identified an individual engaged in such a scheme.

Ministers and investigators hesitate to put a number on how many false passports are in circulation, but media reports suggest cases where one individual produced 200 false records independently, or small groups collaborating to produce thousands. La Presse interviewed a former employee of the Olympic Stadium site who admitted receiving up to $60,000 to input false entries.

Guilbault said the government remained “humble” in the face of challenges of implementing the technology, and suggested loopholes are closing and fake records will be identified and deactivated. Comments by Dubé and Guilbault both encouraged users to remain confident legitimate QR codes will remain active even as work continues to identify and deactivate suspicious entries, such as vaccinations entered during the night, vaccinations entered weeks after the fact, double vaccinations entered on the same date, doses administered by the same person in two locations at the same time, employees who entered too many vaccinations too quickly, or shifts where vials consumed and vaccinations recorded did not match.

Health Minister Christian Dubé encouraged retailers to keep the VaxiCode Verif application updated to flag QR codes for false passports.

Guilbault described fake passports as a “ticking timebomb” which risks criminal charges and a waste of money because they will stop working once identified.

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