Companies Are Selling Fake COVID Vaccine Cards. Using One Can Land You In Jail For Years

(Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
Font Size:

A black market for fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is growing in the U.S. as online vendors have been caught in recent weeks selling counterfeit versions on e-commerce websites like Amazon and Etsy.

One vendor on Amazon was found selling a 10-pack of blank COVID-19 vaccine cards for $12.99, according to screenshots shared on social media. Counterfeit vaccination cards have also been found on Etsy, an online retailer that specializes in crafts and handmade items, Vice reported.

The vaccine card is given to all Americans after receiving the necessary COVID-19 shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping the card as it’s the only official way to show proof of vaccination. But the vaccine card, made out of simple cardstock, can be easily replicated by fraudsters, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The FBI warned in late March that fake vaccine cards are against the law because they involve the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal — which is punishable with a fine of up to $5,000 or as much as five years in prison.

The agency also said using fake vaccine cards would have a negative impact on public health as “misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated” in public places can “put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19.”

A Monmouth University poll in March found that around one-quarter of Americans oppose getting the COVID-19 vaccine. As the number of fully vaccinated Americans continues to increase and vaccines become mandatory in some places, FBI Special Agent Jeanette Harper told KFOX-14 that those opting out of vaccination may feel pressured to look for other alternatives.

“We understand you don’t wanna be vaccinated but you’re putting others at risk when you travel elsewhere and now you’re providing this false information. You’re also breaking the law,” Harper said.

A number of people have been caught and charged with selling fake vaccine cards. California bar owner Todd Anderson was arrested in early May for allegedly selling fake cards, the first such scheme to be thwarted by law enforcement. (RELATED: New York’s First-In-Nation Vaccine Passport Is Super Easy To Fake)

Anderson was charged with identity theft, forging government documents, falsifying medical records and having a loaded, unregistered handgun.

A bipartisan coalition of 47 attorneys general sent a letter to the CEOs of Twitter, Shopify and eBay in April requesting the companies take immediate action against people using those platforms to sell vaccine cards. A group of 42 attorneys general sent a separate letter to the online mobile store OfferUp requesting similar action.