Want to Take a Day Off? In China, Purchase a Fake Doctor’s Excuse

December 6, 2017 Updated: December 6, 2017

Over the years, China has been known for producing all kinds of knockoff products, from shoes, clothes, to electronic gadgets. Recently, news came to light about the widespread availability of fake doctor’s certificates.

Mr. Li, owner of a clothing factory in Shunyi District in Beijing, came to realize that many of his employees on sick leave were not ill after all, reported Chinese news portal Sina. Li first caught onto the scheme when he tried to visit his employee’s home when the worker went on sick leave, only to discover that the worker had secretly taken on a second job as a security guard.

Police conducted a thorough investigation and uncovered that over 20 employees had used a fake doctor’s certificate, listing ailments ranging from heart disease, broken bones, to high blood pressure, to pocket a total of over 350,000 yuan ($52,885) worth in paid salary and health insurance.

The incident is hardly an isolated case. An undercover investigation by China’s state-run newspaper China Youth Daily published on Dec. 4 revealed that fake doctor’s certificates were widely sold on WeChat, China’s biggest social networking and instant messaging app, and Taobao, China’s equivalent to eBay.

A company with the name “Xin Xin” offered a fake doctor’s certificate for 120 yuan (about $18). A client only needed to provide name, age, gender, name of illness, days of leave, and name of the desired hospital, according to the China Youth Daily article. The fake certificate could be created in 15 minutes and sent to the client’s cell phone for use later.

Another company offered various fake certificates for a price range between 50 yuan to 300 yuan ($7.56 to $45.3). Its premium product came with a real hospital’s stamp. The company only offered the named hospital perk for certain hospitals. The complete package, which sold for 340 yuan (about $51.3), came with a convincing-looking fake certificate, a hospital registration form, medical examination results, medical records, and receipt. According to China Youth Daily, the company stated that they had connections with sources at the hospital who could help offer better-quality fake documents.

One fake certificate seller said 70 percent of his customers were students and white-collar workers.

Even though a hospital official could quickly identify which certificates were fake—usually improper fonts and the addition of fake serial numbers gave them away—companies and schools rarely consult the hospital to verify the authenticity of the certificates, making it easy for fake doctor’s certificates to spread like wildfire, according to China Youth Daily.

Many employees use the fake certificates because it is normally so difficult to take a day off from their jobs, with company pressure forcing them to frequently work overtime, according to Chinese news portal NetEase. Those workers run the risk of losing their jobs, though, as the fake certificates violate China’s employment contract law.

In August 2016, a high school student with the nickname Xiao Gao said many of his classmates purchased fake doctor’s certificates so they could avoid going to their military training class, according to the state-run newspaper Beijing Morning Post. He said one of his classmate’s fake certificate had this “doctor’s note”: “suggested five days of leave for gastroenteritis.”

It may not be surprising that there is no honor among thieves. Another man surnamed Li (no relation to Mr. Li above), who worked in the IT industry in Guangzhou City in southern China, was scammed when he tried to buy a fake doctor’s certificate on Taobao in April, according to the state-run Nanfang Daily. He had planned to use the certificate to ask for a day off from work, but the seller shut down the Taobao account after Li wired his payment of 220 yuan (about $33).

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