SAN FRANCISCO – On Etsy, eBay, Facebook and Twitter, small rectangular pieces of paper start going up for sale in late January. Printed on stock, they measure three x four inches and feature crisp black lettering. Sellers list them for $ 20 to $ 60 each, with discounts on packages of three or more. Multi-layered ones cost extra.
All are counterfeit or counterfeit copies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination cards, issued to people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in the United States.
Saoud Khalifah, founder of FakeSpot, said: “We have found hundreds of online stores selling cards, potentially thousands of cards already sold.
The coronavirus has made many people opportunistic, such as those who store hand sanitizer bottles at the start of a pandemic or those who trick people into getting out of their stimulation tests. Now, online scammers have embraced the latest profit-making initiative: small white cards that provide proof of the hits.
Khalifah said online stores offering fake or stolen vaccine cards have been mushrooming in recent weeks. These efforts are not yet hidden, with Facebook pages titled “vax card” and eBay listing with “blank vaccine tag” publicly selling items.
Legal experts say the sale of counterfeit vaccination cards could violate federal law that prohibits copying the CDC logo. If cards are stolen and incorrectly entered and dated, they could also violate identity theft laws, they said.
But the vengers pushed ahead before the demand for cards rose from anti-vaccine activists and other groups. Airlines and other companies recently said they can request proof of Covid-19 immunization so that people can travel or attend events safely.
These cards can also become the hub of “vaccine passports,” providing digital proof of vaccination. Some tech companies that develop vaccine passports require people to upload copies of their CDC cards. Los Angeles also recently started using a CDC card for its own digital proof of immunizations.
Last week, 45 state attorneys general joined together to urge Twitter, Shopify, and eBay to stop the sale of fake and stolen vaccine cards. Officials said they are monitoring activity and are concerned that those who are not vaccinated will abuse the card to attend major events, potentially spreading the virus and prolonging a pandemic.
“We are seeing a huge market for these fake cards online,” said Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General for Pennsylvania who has an office for the investigation of virus fraud. “This is a risky practice that undermines public health.”
The CDC said it was “aware of cases of fraud involving fake Covid-19 vaccine cards.” It asks people not to share pictures of their personal information or vaccine cards on social media.
Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy say that selling fake vaccine tags violated their rules, and they are deleting posts promoting these items.
The CDC introduced vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to track Covid-19 injections. Khalifah said that by January, sales of fake vaccine cards began to soar. Many people find these cards easy to counterfeit from templates available on the Internet. He said the real card was also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and sold.
Khalifah said many people who bought the card were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccine. In several anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have been openly bragging about getting the card.
“My body is my choice,” said one person in a Facebook post last month. Another replied: “I can’t wait either lol.”
Other buyers want to use the card to trick pharmacists into vaccinating them, Khalifah said. Because some vaccines are two-shot regimens, people may incorrectly enter the first vaccination date on the card, which makes it appear as though they need a second dose soon. Some state-run pharmacies and immunization sites have prioritized those coming for the second shot.
An anonymous Etsy seller said she recently sold dozens of fake vaccine cards for $ 20 each. She justifies her actions by saying that she is helping people avoid a “totalitarian government”. She added that she does not have a vaccination plan.
Proponents of the vaccine say they have been troubled by the proliferation of fake and stolen cards. To hold those people accountable, Savannah Sparks, a pharmacist in Biloxi, Miss., Started posting videos on TikTok last month outlining the people selling fake vaccine cards.
In one video, Ms. Sparks explains how she tracked down the name of an Illinois pharmacy technician who stole some cards for herself and her husband and posted it online. The pharmacy technician did not reveal her identity, but linked the post to her social media accounts where she used her real name. The video has 1.2 million views.
“I’m very angry when a pharmacist uses her access and location this way,” said Miss Sparks. The video caught the attention of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, which said it reported the video to the state board for further investigation.
Ms Sparks said her work attracted detractors and vaccine opponents who threatened her and posted her phone number and home address online. But she was not discouraged.
“They should be the first to get people to get vaccinated,” she said of the pharmacists. “Instead, they’re trying to use their position to instill fear and help people avoid vaccinations.”
Shapiro, the Pennsylvania state attorney general, said that in addition to violating federal copyright laws, the sale of counterfeit cards and stolen cards is likely to violate civil law and protect consumers from regulating an item. Can be used as advertisement. The cards could also violate state laws about impersonation, he said.
“We want to see them stop immediately,” Mr. Shapiro said of the scammers. “And we want to see companies take immediate and serious action.”