Story at a glance

  • Scammers are selling fake vaccine cards, given to persons after they receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • There’s been a sharp rise in fake vaccine card ads since President Biden announced a series of vaccine mandates in September.
  • Creating or buying a fake COVID-19 vaccination card is illegal.

The market for fake vaccine cards seems to be growing hand-in-hand with the growing list of states and businesses requiring a COVID-19 vaccine.

The market for fake vaccine cards, given out after a person receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), created an opportunity for people to bypass vaccination mandates by employers, businesses and the government. 

In September, President Biden issued an executive order mandating vaccinations for federal employees as well as private-sector employees and health care workers. Sharp backlash followed, with states like Florida and Texas publicly criticizing the president’s decision and some states joined together to sue the Biden administration over it’s vaccine mandate.

There was also swift reaction online, with Check Point Software Technologies, a cyber security solutions company, analyzing the fake vaccine market and began noticing hundreds of advertisements for fake vaccine cards. 

Check Point said they began seeing fake vaccination card ads as early as December 2020 and by March 2021 there was a 400 percent increase compared to previous months. That lines up with the global roll out of COVID-19 vaccines earlier this year. 


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Fast forward to September 2021, Check Point also found that after President Biden announced a national vaccine mandate, the cost of fake CDC vaccination cards in the U.S. went from $100 up to $200.

The Guardian also conducted its own investigation and identified seven sellers on the encrypted messaging app Telegram that were repeatedly flagged for selling fake vaccine cards. The online do-it-yourself retailer Etsy was also found to be hosting fake vaccination ID sellers, according to Media Matters. 

Fake vaccine cards are not just a growing presence in the U.S., Check Point identified 29 nations around the world from the U.K. and Canada to India and Australia, all facing the same challenge. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that since August, the agency had seized five shipments that had 1,683 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and 2,034 fake Pfizer inoculation stickers. Officers noticed the counterfeit documents had misspellings and substandard printing. According to CBP, the shipments originated from China and were headed to private residences in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New York and Texas.

“Creating or buying a fake COVID-19 vaccination card is illegal, not to mention dangerous,” said Richard Gillespie, CBP Cincinnati port director.

Gillespie went on to explain that by consumers purchasing counterfeit vaccine cards they are supporting criminals who only care about enriching their bank accounts and are not concerned with American security or health.

In July, the Department of Justice also announced it had arrested a California naturopathic doctor for her alleged scheme to sell fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and immunization pellets that she claimed would provide immunity to the virus.  

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a blogpost explaining the fake vaccine card phenomena and said that, technically the CDC COVID-19 vaccine cards were not designed to prove a person’s vaccination status. That’s prompted some states, companies and schools to create their own verification products like apps on cell phones, which has created an opportunity for scammers to cash in on consumer confusion.

The FTC warned consumers to be skeptical of anyone selling vaccine verification certificates or passports and to report any COVID-19 scammers to reportfraud.ftc.gov.


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Published on Nov 11, 2021