HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Many people in the Mountain State continue to get vaccinated every day, and when they do they get vaccination cards as proof.
However, there is beginning to be something of a black market for them.
With more privileges being extended to vaccinated people, it is easy to understand why the physical proof of vaccination is becoming more valuable. However, the FBI and other officials warn: creating a fake record of vaccination is illegal.
The FBI issued an advisory to health officials, warning of the existence of fake COVID-19 cards, and the hazards of falsifying a vaccination record.
“This is the first official notification that we have gotten that the fake vaccination record cards might be sold or bought from different platforms and that this kind of fraud is illegal. It would be basically called unauthorized use of a government agency’s seal,” says Michael Kilkenny, the CEO and health officer of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
Unauthorized reproduction and use of a government agency’s seal is punishable by a fine and up to five years in prison.
Not only can forging those little cards land you in legal hot water—health officials say it is also bad for the entire community.
“Then we don’t have herd immunity that we’re trying to build up to, getting as many people vaccinated as we can! If these people are saying they’re vaccinated which they’re really not they still can contract COVID-19 which then, of course, they can spread COVID-19 and we have another spike happening,” says Steve Murray, the assistant director for Cabell County EMS.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey even spoke out about the issue, demanding Twitter, eBay, and Shopify remove the sale of these illicit cards from their platforms.
“The fraud is occurring through those platforms and we think they have a responsibility to look, do due diligence, and take action,” Morrisey says.
If the illegality of it and the risk it poses to others around you doesn’t put you off, it is also a crime that is easily caught.
“If they have a card, and the card itself just doesn’t look correct, we can also log in using their name, date of birth, VAMS number or email address to verify what the correct information is,” Murray says.
So, why would people risk this? Locals have some ideas:
“Well I think those people are trying to cut in line,” says Noah Hickman, who got his first dose of the vaccine Friday.
“I have a feeling that there’s gonna be a need to produce proof in order to maybe travel or attend concerts, things like that, and there’s people that are afraid to get vaccinated for whatever reason,” says Brian Daniels, who got his second dose of the vaccine Friday.
No matter the reason, health officials are clear on one point:
“Truly, the vaccination is what’s most important. Get the vaccine,” says Murray.
Officials also warn that people selling these fake cards online could steal your personal information.
The FBI says you shouldn’t buy or sell these fake documents.
They also warn about posting vaccination cards online in order to keep all private information safe.