Covid Vaccination Cards, Selfies, and Loss
Each month, IDShield's blog features the most prevalent scam of the past few weeks, giving you insights into how scams begin and the ways to detect them.
At the pandemic's start, panicked Americans were offered bogus cures for the Coronavirus. Then vaccines debuted, and the surge in vaccine appointment scams reached epidemic levels. Now, con artists claim there's a way to sidestep pesky things like sore arms or the wait for a vaccine slot. Scammers are standing by—ready and willing to sell you a completed vaccination card.
On the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, Covid scams have topped the agency's list of complaints for many months. Scammers continue to Covid-19 offer tests to Medicare beneficiaries when they're really after your insurance information.
"Fraudsters are offering COVID-19 tests, HHS grants, and Medicare prescription cards in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, these services are unapproved and illegitimate," the agency noted in a recent alert.
"In another fraud scheme, some medical labs are targeting retirement communities claiming to offer COVID-19 tests, but they are actually drawing blood and billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary services."
There's been a lot of chatter about vaccination passports and the proof of vaccination people may need to provide. International travel is one looming issue with some nations already requiring clear evidence of vaccination. Imagine what would happen if your kid's school or the local movie theater began asking for one.
In Connecticut, the governor recently signed a bill that removes some religious exemptions from the state's school vaccination requirements. In short, there are numerous reasons the bogus card market is booming.
New websites offering "genuine" CDC documents pop up just as quickly as government agencies shut another down. Some Americans have paid $200 or more for these counterfeits to avoid free inoculations. They're also many shunning cities, including Detroit, which have distributed gift cards to the vaccinated.
Ads for fake papers have appeared on Facebook and Tik Tok, while sellers on eBay and Etsy offered blank cards for sale until government officials requested a takedown.
Some deals just confuse customers. They tout a plastic vaccine cardholder (photographed with card inside), so buyers expect more than the piece of plastic they receive.
HHS and the FBI have this to say about duplicating legit CDC-issued cards: "By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, the unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal (such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a crime."
In early May, a California bar owner was arrested on three felony counts for forgery of a government seal and identity theft. Patrons of the bar could buy realistic but forged vaccination card.
No Selfies Zone
You should never share your vaccination card photo. Don't post a selfie featuring that document online. Why? It contains actual vial numbers connected to your own injections. With such data, scammers can craft believable, irrespirable emails.
"Recall notice. Your vaccine dose ##### was compromised." Imagine that subject line landing in your Inbox. Could you resist opening that email? Could anyone? Just keep those details private.
This concern may sound far-fetched, but it's genuine. Government officials like Florida's Attorney General have issued warnings regarding identity theft that could occur if you overshare this data.
Please don't post your card online but do photograph it for your records. If you've already posted a shot on Instagram or Facebook, take that photo down.
If you lost your card and neglected to save a photo of it, health officials urge you to return to the place of vaccination. If you received the two-shot method, go to the clinic that administered the second dose. If that fails, your state health department maintains a record of your actual vaccination status. Since there will likely be another round of shots—Pfizer researchers have already indicated to expect one—you should replace a lost card.
New York State recently approved a vaccine passport plan, but otherwise, there is no current requirement that you carry the card. Keep it in a safe place. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services offers a long list of advice on avoiding Covid-19 vaccination schemes.
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