DES MOINES – As the available doses of COVID-19 vaccine increase and all adults over the age of 16 become available to receive one, scams abound.
The latest involves the production and sale of fraudulent vaccination cards. These cards, which are provided by health-care providers to those being inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine, have been found for sale online.
“If you see these cards for sale, we urge you to report them to us or other authorities,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said. “This is fraud, and it puts people at risk.”
In early April, Miller joined a bipartisan group of attorneys generals in sending letters urging Twitter, eBay, and Shopify, to immediately take action to prevent their platforms from being used to sell these fraudulent cards. The group also sent a letter to the marketplace site OfferUp on April 19.
“We are deeply concerned about this use of your platforms to spread false and misleading information regarding COVID vaccines. The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states,” the letters state.
Twitter, Shopify and eBay have responded that their policies prohibit the sale of such cards and will monitor their sites for activity.
FBI warns that sales are illegal
The FBI recently issued a public alert warning against the sale and purchase of such fraudulent cards, noting that doing so could be a violation of federal law.
The unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal, like that of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, is a crime and may be punishable under Title 18, the FBI warned.
Additionally, by participating in the proliferation of fake vaccination cards, individuals are putting others in their community at risk. Those who forge a vaccination card to travel, return to work or attend large events could be charged criminally with knowingly putting other people at risk of contracting COVID-19, the FBI warned.
A story from NBC News on scammers selling fake vaccination cards may be viewed at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov.
While the most effective way to avoid a fake vaccination card scam is to simply not purchase one, there are other steps consumers can help slow the spread of these fraudulent cards:
Don’t share your COVID-19 vaccination card on social media
Scammers have used vaccination cards posted online to forge the cards and sell them for a profit, the FBI said.
Additionally, the vaccination cards contain a treasure trove of personal information, including your name, date of birth, insurance information and patient number. In the wrong hands, this data could be used to steal your identity and commit fraud, the Federal Trade Commission warns.
Report fake vaccination cards
If you see fake vaccination cards for sale online, report the website and seller to the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at email@example.com or 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area). You can also report the fraudulent cards to the Federal Trade Commission at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/.
Learn more about how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 vaccination and stimulus payment scams by reading our tips.