A photo of a hand using a magnifying glass to verify the authenticity of the Covid-19 vaccine card, taken on August 15, 2021. A real card will have the CDC logo on it.
Raychel Brightman | Newsday | fake images
The online market for fake Covid-19 vaccination cards is booming.
Thousands of online sellers claim to offer near-perfect copies of the cards at prices that have risen sharply in recent weeks, with some now selling a single card for hundreds of dollars. While it’s unclear how many cards are successfully reaching people trying to buy them, the federal government is intercepting scores of them.
A spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection said the agency has intercepted thousands of packages of fake cards from China that “we basically stopped tracking, because there were so many.”
Almost all of the seized packages came from Shenzhen, China, the spokesman said.
The fbi warned in march that buying, creating or selling fake vaccination cards is illegal and that the agency has made at least one high profile arrest from a Chicago pharmacist who was allegedly selling them on eBay. All major US social media and commerce sites, including Etsy, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter, have banned the sale of the cards.
But users offering cards for sale abound on the United Arab Emirates-based messaging app Telegram, which rarely moderates user content. While Telegram is still sparsely used in the US, become more popular in the last year, especially with the extreme right. In January, its founder, Pavel Durov, Announced the application had reached 500 million active users worldwide.
The actual versions of the cards, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help people keep track of their vaccinations, are free for those who are vaccinated, which is also free. But since the US does not have a deliberate national system to validate who has been vaccinated and only a handful of states have implemented digital verification, the cards have inadvertently become one of the best ways to show evidence that someone has been vaccinated.
Researchers at cybersecurity company Check Point have identified around 10,000 Telegram users claiming to sell fake vaccination cards, said Brian Linder, the company’s emerging threat expert.
After President Joe Biden signed two executives Last Thursday’s orders that dramatically increased the number of Americans who would have to be vaccinated to continue working, the cost of fake black market cards roughly doubled from $ 100 to $ 200, Linder said. Sellers almost always request payment in bitcoin and often ask for specific personal information that would not be necessary to mail a blank fake vaccination card, he added.
“What people don’t realize, of course, is that only God knows where their identity and their financial information end up,” Linder said.
Representatives for Telegram did not respond to a request for comment.
Three self-proclaimed vaccination card sellers, contacted by NBC News on Telegram, said they demanded card payment with bitcoin. Each asked for more personal information than would be necessary to mail a blank card, such as date of birth and phone number, which makes the claims true. on why they needed such information to “register” a buyer’s information. One said the information would be sent to a doctor, while another said it would go to the CDC. None of the three were willing to explain what that record really meant.
While it’s unclear how many sellers on Telegram actually send the fake cards, Customs and Border Protection has intercepted “thousands” of them in recent months, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“Unvaccinated individuals using fraudulent vaccination cards put themselves, their loved ones and their fellow citizens at risk of contracting COVID-19,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, unauthorized use of the seal of an official government agency (such as the Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is a federal crime and may be punishable under Title 18 of the Code. from United States”.