Missouri partially to blame for rampant sales of fake COVID vaccine cards

Vaccination cards and a sticker.
Vaccination cards and a sticker. Photo credit Free Press (April McCullum)

Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards are growing in popularity on the black market, and online retailers are struggling to monitor and remove them quickly.

Screenshots show an Amazon vendor selling a bundle of 10 blank vaccination cards for $12.99. Etsy has struggled to keep up with removing coronavirus misinformation, including vaccine documents, which the company says are strictly prohibited. “Official COVID ID Cards” were still available for purchase on Etsy last week, according to Media Matters. Bad actors have also attempted selling fraudulent cards on OfferUp, where a pack went for $40.

Wyoming and Missouri published high-resolution templates of the record card online, spurring some to share the information to make fake cards. So did other states. The Centers for Disease Control asked states to remove the templates from their websites, citing “fraudulent misuse,” according to NBC News. Wyoming’s Health Department said it shared the information hoping to streamline the process with providers across its community.

Attorneys General from across the nation have asked Shopify, eBay, and Twitter to be tenacious in removing posts attempting to sell blank and forged cards to people on the Internet.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine and its accompanying record card is free in the U.S.

When someone in the U.S. receives the vaccine, health staff provide a rectangular piece of cardstock with the facility’s location and the drug’s batch numbers. More than 170 million Americans who have already received at least one injection have a vaccination card. But according to the Federal Trade Commission, the CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards “were never designed to prove your vaccination status, and they may not be enough.”

Instructions on how to forge the handwritten cards have circulated on pro-Trump and anti-vaccine forums. Users on 4chan received specific details on what size cardstock and labels to use.

In March, the FBI said creating or buying a fake vaccine card is illegal, adding that the practice has serious negative consequences for public health. The agency strongly encouraged businesses, schools, and other places to maintain social distancing and mask requirements because of the possibility of fake vaccine cards.

“That is misuse of a government seal, so that is actually a crime to do that. It comes with it for each offense, up to a $5,000 fine or five years in prison,” said Amy Alexander, a spokesperson with the FBI Seattle field office. The seal in question is the CDC logo on the cards.

Last week, New York's State Senate approved legislation making it a felony to forge or possess false immunization records.

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