JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When you walk out of vaccination sites across the country, you get a CDC COVID-19 vaccination card. The FBI and Florida's Attorney General warn some are getting the card without the shot and even buying them online.
“Misrepresenting yourself as having received the vaccine puts a lot of other people at risk for health reasons," Amanda Videll, FBI Jacksonville's public affairs specialist. "But it also puts you at risk for criminal liabilities as well.”
Videll said the FBI has received several reports of fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards sold online. If you buy a counterfeit card, you could face federal charges for misusing a government seal. The charges could result in a $5,000 fine or five years in prison for each offense, or each time you show the fake card.
Those selling the cards could face the same federal charges.
"The other thing that it does is, eventually, if organizations are not able to ensure that the vaccination cards that they're being shown are true and valid, we could see them continue to follow CDC guidelines, and see those guidelines not lifted," Videll said.
"If they just can't be sure that everybody has received their vaccine that they're letting into their doors, if that's what they've chosen to do, then they may decide not to lift those restrictions as well. So, it really doesn't help society as a whole to do this," she said.
Florida's Attorney General Ashley Moody joined 44 attorney generals from across the country asking online platforms like eBay, Shopify and Twitter in a letter to monitor their sites. The letter also asked the platforms to take down ads or links selling the cards and report the information.
"Save information for us so that we can go after those bad actors," Moody said.
“It's important as we are trying to, you know, get over this pandemic and move back into happier healthier times that we crack down on any of these scams or schemes that are going on using COVID as a basis to defraud Floridians," she said.
Videll said she expects to see sales of the fake cards increase as more organizations may require proof that people got their vaccines. Videll and Moody agree that this scam could set the country back from the progress we've made so far in fighting the pandemic.
"It's very worrisome that there would be numerous cards out there that are fake, showing proof of vaccinations when we're trying to make a lot of decisions, and understanding how we're doing in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic based on how many of our folks are getting vaccinated," Moody said.
"Not only is it difficult for, you know, those within Florida to assess how we're doing in terms of vaccinations, but those that purchase these cards may be led to believe that they can do things with these cards, which maybe certain places are expecting folks to be vaccinated," Moody said. "But, more importantly, this is just an age old scam where people are selling fake or fraudulent goods and they're using COVID-19 to do it," she said.
If you've received a COVID-19 vaccine, odds are you probably took that selfie with your vaccination card afterward. Videll warns if you post your card, cover up personal information. She said any time you put personal information out there, whether that be your full name, date of birth, or other information, you put yourself at risk of someone stealing your identity.
“Receiving your vaccination is your choice, but please choose not to show your vaccination card online because it does put you at risk. And please choose not to actually purchase these fake cards because it does put society at risk, and it also puts you at risk of a criminal charge as well," Videll said.