Sales of fake COVID vaccination cards have prompted 46 state attorneys general to urge Twitter, eBay and Shopify to prevent people from marketing and selling them on their platforms.
“We are deeply concerned about this use of your platforms to spread false and misleading information regarding COVID vaccines,” states the letter sent to the CEOs of the various platforms.
“The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states,” it notes.
The coalition of attorneys general, led by Josh Stein of North Carolina and Herbert H. Slattery III of Tennessee, stated in the letter: “The use of your platforms to disseminate the deceptive marketing and sales of fake vaccine cards is a threat to residents of our states. As a result, we are asking you to take immediate action to prevent your platforms from being used as a vehicle to commit these fraudulent and deceptive acts that harm our communities.”
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) April 5, 2021
The attorneys asked the companies to take three immediate actions:
- Monitor their platforms for ads or links selling blank or fraudulently completed vaccination cards
- Promptly take down ads or links that are selling cards
- Preserve records and information about the ads and the people who are selling them.
“We would appreciate a response to this request by April 9, 2021, setting forth how you intend to comply with the foregoing,” the AGs’ letter states.
“People selling fake vaccine cards are putting us all at risk and making it harder for us to end this pandemic …” Stein said in a statement.
“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19, but it’s also an open door for scammers,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
Legitimate vaccine cards are given to maintain a record of vaccines administered by health-care providers. To create, accept or sell fraudulent government documents is a federal crime.
In a public service announcement, the FBI warned: “If you make or buy a fake COVID-19 vaccination record card, you endanger yourself and those around you, and you are breaking the law. By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
The unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal, such as Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be punishable under Title 18 of the United States Code for wrongful use.
“We strongly encourage businesses, schools, places of worship and government agencies to follow CDC guidance and continue to maintain social distancing and use personal protective equipment.”
The FBI in Minneapolis tweeted on March 31: “We’ve all seen friends posting their #COVID19 vaccination cards on social media. If you make or buy a fake one to misrepresent your vaccination status, you endanger other people and may also be breaking the law.”
Social media is also rife with users’ photos of their actual vaccination card. Authorities say they may be putting themselves at risk for identity theft.
In February, The Federal Trade Commission urged the public to use published vaccination stickers or other, non-identifying visuals if they chose to share their vaccination stories in social media.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a total of 62,392,065 Americans have been fully vaccinated, or 18.8 percent of the country’s population.
(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel)
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