Monday, August 16, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-16-2021: With more businesses implementing vaccine mandates, more people turn to illegal fake vaccine cards

With more employers mandating vaccines for their employees, and businesses, cities, and schools doing the same for customers and other non-employee visitors, more people who resist the vaccine are turning to fake vaccine cards to remain employed or otherwise gain access.

As I wrote a few months ago, using a fake vaccine card is a federal crime. 18 U.S.C. sec. 1017 criminalizes the fraudulent or wrongful use of a government seal (in this case, that of the CDC). It is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. 

The illegality, however, hasn't stopped people, and the market is growing.

The problem is that with only paper vaccine records available, they are easy to fake. Just this week, customs agents seized a shipment of thousands of blank counterfeit vaccine cards from China. It is 121st such seizure in Memphis alone. Elsewhere, authorities are cracking down where they can. In Hawaii, for example, a father and son were arrested when their fake vaccine cards were detected. 

Fakes, however, are not always easy to spot. Blank cards are easily found online, and as long as the paper is of the correct weight and the information looks legitimate, you may have a very difficult time telling a fake from the real thing. The answer is digital vaccine passports, but their adoption and use is limited and spotty.

If you are mandating the vaccine for your employees or otherwise collecting vaccine records, please be sure to advise that the creation or use of a fake vaccine card is a federal crime punishable of up to five years in prison.

If you catch an employee using a fake card I'm not saying you should turn him or her into the FBI's through its Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of Inspector General, or your local police department, but I'm not saying you shouldn't either (at least after you've warned of the potential consequences). This is a real crime with potentially dangerous consequences, as it gives others a false sense of security and could lead to the further spread and mutation of this dangerous and deadly virus. We all want this pandemic to end, but lying about whether you've been vaccinated doesn't help us get there.

* Image via Jernej Furman on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)