After well over a year of the pandemic, it’s finally here – COVID-19 vaccinations. With Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson / Janssen vaccines available in many states and counties in America, our communities and businesses are speeding up the road to recovery and reopening. But as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, some are ready to take advantage of COVID-19, this time in the form of fake COVID-19 certification.
If you’ve already received your COVID-19 vaccine, you know that CDC vaccine record cards are given at the time of the first shot. While the original intent of the card is to serve as a reminder for your second dose, many are using it as proof of vaccination. One glaring way is travel – Iceland is accepting travelers with CDC vaccine cards, and with proof of vaccination, countries like Belize are allowing entry without quarantine. And as the CDC advises people to keep their “vaccination card in case you need it for future use,” and as more venues require these documents, scammers are taking full advantage.
Reports of fake COVID-19 vaccine cards are surfacing on Craigslist, eBay, OfferUp, the “Darknet,” Twitter, and Shopify stores. And while companies have publicly committed to taking action against these sellers, it’s almost too easy and low-cost to forge these cards.
When those vaccinated post their vaccine cards to social media, well-intentioned actions could result in an even wider spread of fake cards. The FBI warned in a PSA, “do not post photos of your vaccine card to social media websites—your personal information could be stolen to commit fraud.”
Forged negative COVID-19 tests have sold on the market for $25, and fraudulent COVID-19 cards between $100 and $200. Creating, selling, or buying these are now considered a crime. Fake vaccine cards may allow others to have a false sense of security, and place them as well as the holder at risk of COVID-19 infection. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein warns that fake vaccine cards could “make the COVID-19 pandemic last longer.” If you see any fraudulent listings, make sure to report and avoid them at all costs.
Other organizations are developing vaccine passports and certificates as a potential way to provide proof of vaccination. Israel is one country already implementing a vaccine passport, allowing those who received the shots more freedom to attend social gatherings. And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has established that a digital, mobile-friendly Excelsior Pass can be used as proof of vaccination to access events including reopened venues for entertainment and sports. And although these new modes of certification provide hopeful ways to reopen society while staying safe, the possibility of fake passports and digital fraud means we have to continue being diligent in watching out for scams as they evolve during this pandemic.