As more private businesses, universities and hospitals begin to require people to show proof of vaccination, there is a growing black market for fake vaccination cards.
The situation has been getting the attention of law enforcement officials for months, and now privacy-rights advocates are putting out a word of warning.
“The people that you’re sharing this data with, these are shady people,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center. "What would make you think that they’re not going to misuse your information in another way?"
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In fact, a bogus vaccination card obtained by NBC 7 shows the buyer gave a date of birth and, in all likelihood, other personal information.
“I want people who are considering doing this just to consider who they’re sharing their data with," Velasquez said. "What makes you think that, just because you’re paying them money, that once they have your data, they aren’t going to use it for other nefarious purposes?”
The fake cards are remarkably easy to find online for as much as $200. One ad on Instagram was observed offering a card for just $25.
The cards are available via online platforms despite efforts by 47 state attorneys general, who in April requested that social media sites take down ads or links offering fake cards for sale.
Meanwhile, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office put out a statement warning of criminal consequences for selling or using a fake vaccination card:
“With more industries and workplaces requiring vaccine verification, we are seeing an increase in fraudsters offering to sell fake cards," District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "Making, selling or using fake vaccination cards is a crime, and is destructive to public health. This illegal behavior could result in serious criminal charges, including identity theft, falsifying medical records or forgery."
Among those being targeted by those making the fake cards are college students, many of who are now required to show proof of vaccination.
At San Diego State, students gathered on campus had negative reviews of the bogus cards.
“The fact that people are doing something illegal to get out of something that’s free -- and being highly encouraged, and that can protect our neighbors and our friends and family -- I think that that’s really crazy,” said political science grad student Adri Bozaich.
“It’s crazy that people would rather pay for something that’s technically not legal then just get something that’s free, takes two seconds and, I bet, the process takes a lot longer to get a fake vaccination card,” said Gabby Garcia, a junior majoring in speech language and hearing science.
San Diego State University said that, as of July 30, more than 25,000 students and a majority of faculty and staff have already submitted proof of vaccination.
In a statement, the university outlined its procedure to guard against fake vaccination cards: “SDSU has the ability to verify vaccinations administered in the state of California by automatically cross-referencing all uploaded vaccine cards and records with county and state vaccine registries. We also screen for any vaccine-card irregularities or other concerns. To be clear: The university has not encountered the upload of any fictitious COVID-19 vaccine cards."