Scammers are producing and selling fake negative coronavirus test certificates in airports, stations and online around Europe in the latest example of opportunistic coronavirus-related crime, the EU’s law enforcement agency has said.

“As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the Covid-19 situation, it is highly likely that production and sales of fake test certificates will prevail,” Europol, the bloc’s police cooperation and coordination agency, said on Monday.

“Given the widespread technological means available, in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents … Member states should be vigilant.”

Europol’s global counterpart, Interpol, has previously warned of criminal gangs selling fake coronavirus vaccines – or stealing real ones – and flooding the market with counterfeit face masks, hand sanitisers and other medical products.

A recent negative PCR test is now required for travel to most countries. Forgery cases have been reported in the Netherlands, France, Spain and the UK, and a man was arrested at Luton airport this month on suspicion of selling counterfeit test results.

Seven people aged between 29 and 52 were also detained at Paris’s largest airport, Charles de Gaulle, in November and charged with forgery, use of forgery and complicity in fraud after selling faked test certificates to travellers for between €150 and €300.

Police said the arrests came as part of an investigation that began after a passenger checked in for a flight to Addis Ababa with a forged document. The seven face up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of €375,000 if convicted.

In Spain, national police last month arrested a woman accused of offering fake certificates online. The suspect undertook to send the completed document to the buyer by email within 24 hours, promising that they had been used on multiple occasions and to different destinations with no problems.

The investigation was launched after the head of a medical laboratory in Madrid told police that “utterly fraudulent but extremely convincing” negative PCR certificates bearing the lab’s name were circulating.

The Algemeen Dagblad newspaper reported that WhatsApp and Snapchat accounts in the Netherlands with names such as “Airplane Doctor” and “Digital Doctor” were routinely selling fake PCR test certificates, bearing the forged signatures of real doctors, for between €50 and €60, compared with €150 for an official test.

A criminal lawyer, Sander Janssen, told the paper the offence of forgery could carry a prison sentence, but buyers could also be punishable for fraud – particularly if they were infected with the virus and passed it on to someone else. “If someone dies, attempted homicide could be a far-fetched – but possible – charge,” he said.