On Aug. 19, federal officials seized more than 3,000 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards arriving in Anchorage, AK, from China.
Just a few days earlier, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers working in Memphis, TN, flagged a suspicious parcel, also from China, shipped to a business address in New Orleans. It was the 15th such shipment seized that night, all to different cities. Inside the New Orleans parcel were 51 low-quality, counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards.
The cards were clearly fake. They contained typos and unfinished words, and some of the Spanish verbiage on the back was misspelled. How else did authorities know the cards were counterfeit? They were imported by a non-CDC or medical entity. And this was not the first time that federal officials had identified this shipper.
Winston Churchill reportedly said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” meaning a disaster was also an opportunity to implement policy designed to prevent similar catastrophes in the future. Unfortunately, scam artists and grifters around the world have a different interpretation — exploit a disaster for personal gain.
In this roller-coaster stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Delta variant on the loose in the U.S. and elsewhere, government and businesses are setting policies requiring vaccinated individuals to prove they have received their shots before they can resume enjoying the benefits of an open society. But with more than a third of the U.S. population unvaccinated, criminals sensing an opportunity are plotting to sell fake ID cards to those who have unwisely refused to get jabbed.
For those who are thinking about buying fake vaccination cards, the Federal Trade Commission has some advice — don’t do it.
Buying fake vaccine cards, making your own, or filling in blank cards with false information is illegal and could get you fined, or even land you in jail.
But there are reasons not to buy cards, which have nothing to do with COVID. Sharing personal information with scammers is an opportunity for fraudsters to turn the tables by selling your data or using it to commitidentity theft. That means hiding your refusal to get a shot with a fake card could lead to serious financial consequences — in addition to being illegal. It’s a clear-cut case of compounded stupidity.
The only legitimate way to prove you’re vaccinated — or that you test negative — is to get vaccinated or to test negative. If you lose your card, The FTC recommends checking with your state health department or the place you got vaccinated to find out how to get a replacement card.
Editor's Note: This is the first entry by new Not Fake News contributor Arthur Hill, who specializes in identifying and reporting on scams being used to victimize consumers. A veteran Washington journalist and communications expert, Hill will be writing about these and other current topics. Welcome Arthur!