For as little as $20, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine card online. Scammers abound on the Internet offering look-alike three-by-four-inch cards that are falsified copies of the official vaccine cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control to those who are legally inoculated.
According to The New York Times, these forgeries are plentiful on Etsy, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. They come on card stock, but laminated versions are available for an extra fee.
“We found hundreds of online stores selling the cards, potentially thousands were sold,” Saoud Khalifa, the chief executive officer of Fakespot, a company that offers online tools to ferret out bogus reviews and offers. The COVID-19 pandemic has offered scammers many opportunities to ply their craft, from hoarding hand sanitizers to cheating people out of their stimulus payments, says the Times. Forging and selling vaccination cards is the latest money-making scheme for these opportunists.
Khalifa says that online stores have been hawking the phony vaccination cards openly in the last few weeks. They are called “vax-cards,” or “blank vaccine cards,” leaving no doubt about their purpose. According to the Times, selling fake vaccination cards that copy the logo for the CDC is breaking federal law and copying or falsifying personal data on these cards could also violate identity theft laws.
Airlines and other companies are saying that they may require proof of vaccination for travelers and those who want to attend events. These “vaccine passports” make the demand for contraband cards even greater.
The Times says that last week, 45 state attorneys sent a letter to the CEOs of Twitter, Shopify, and eBay, requesting them to stop selling the fake vaccine cards over concern that unvaccinated people would misuse them.
“We are deeply concerned about this use of your platforms to spread false and misleading information regarding COVID vaccines,” the attorneys general said in their letter. “The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states. Multiple states’ laws provide for injunctive relief, damages, penalties, and other remedies for such conducts.”
The FBI also issued a special alert warning people that if you make or buy a fake COVID-19 card, “you endanger yourself and those around you and you are breaking the law.”
“This is a dangerous practice,” said Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro. The CDC has asked people not to share images of their vaccination cards on social media to help prevent identity theft and duplication of their cards. As per the Times, Facebook, eBay, Shopify, and Etsy agreed to remove posts that advertised vaccination cards.
While the CDC said in December that vaccine cards are the simplest way to show proof of vaccination, it turns out that these cards are also easy to replicate. Even authentic cards have been stolen by pharmacists and sold to the unvaccinated public.
People who oppose the COVID-19 vaccines have been enthusiastic buyers of the forgeries, said Khalifa, and some have publicly boasted about obtaining the cards, says the Times. One Etsy seller justified her actions by saying she is helping people evade a “tyrannical government.”
Shapiro, the Pennsylvania state attorney, said that the fraudsters are not only violating federal copyright laws, but they could also be breaking civil and consumer protection and state laws regarding impersonation.
“We want to stop them immediately,” he said, according to the Times. “And we want to see the companies take serous and immediate action.”
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