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COVID-19 Vaccination Card Scams

By Ashleigh, K-Staff

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Woohoo! You’ve just been vaccinated to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. It’s time to post a selfie with your vaccination cards on social media to let everyone know you’ve done your part to help end this pandemic, right?

Wrong!

The self-identifying information on vaccine cards can leave you vulnerable to identity theft and make it simple for scammers to reproduce phony cards.

How could posting my COVID-19 vaccine card on social media possibly be dangerous?

It’s not as harmless as you might think. According to the BBB, reports of scammers selling fake vaccine cards have already started pouring in. In Great Britain, some scammers have been caught trying to sell fake vaccine cards on eBay and other social media sites, and the trend is catching on in the United States as well.

A Treasure Trove of Private Information

The information contained on official vaccination cards have an alarmingly large amount of personally identifying information, including your full name and date of birth.

“You don’t want to give scammers any more information because they constantly build a profile on you,” says BB official Steve Bernas. If your social media profile is visible to anyone, that information is no longer private. With a birthday and full name, the damage an identity thief can inflect is immense.

Vaccine Passport Scams

Now that the Pfizer vaccine has gained full FDA approval, many government entities and private business are now requiring employees and visitors to provide proof of vaccination—as demand for this proof rises, a lucrative opportunity is arising for scammers to produce fake vaccine cards or use the confusion regarding vaccine mandates to steal money and personal information.

The BBB recently warned that they are anticipating new scams to pop up in relation to vaccine passports. A number of groups are busy developing digital apps to serve as vaccine passports for companies and organizations in a wide variety of industries. In places like New York and industries like air travel, vaccine passports are no longer a theory—they’re reality. The BBB recommends being on the lookout for the following:

  • Be skeptical of any vaccine passport app that claims to be from the U.S. federal government. Right now, the U.S. federal government has no plans to create a national vaccine passport. E-mail, calls, text messages that claim the government is requiring such a passport are likely scams.
  • Flying or attending an event? Check with the company directly. You may need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccine to attend an event or board a flight. As with all things related to COVID-19, policies are frequently changing. Be sure to check with your airline, sports team, event venue etc. beforehand to get the latest details.
  • Don’t buy fraudulent vaccine cards. Don’t support scammers and undermine the vaccine effort by buying a black market vaccine card. Misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated means you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Research carefully. If you receive an invitation to download a COVID-19 vaccine passport app, be sure to do your research before entering your personal information. Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double check any information against official news sources and company websites.
  • Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan information, or banking information to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t post your vaccine card on social media.
  • Think the link may be real? Double check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URL domains to use in their cons. Be careful to ensure that the link destination is really what it claims to be. If the message claims to be from the government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website or call the source directly.

What else can I do to protect myself?

Use stickers and frames on social media

  • One safe way of sharing your excitement for getting vaccinated is by using stickers! Social media sites have stickers that you can add to your selfie or photo that lets everyone know that you got vaccinated (and stickers can make your post way more fun!).
  • Frames are also available on most social media sites that you can add to your profile picture to safely share that you’ve been vaccinated.

Don’t share your location

  • DON’T mention or tag the place where you got vaccinated. It might be tempting to let everyone know where you got vaccinated, but this can be even more information that scammers can use. Sharing your location can also be a general security issue, so think twice before letting everyone know where you are.

Check your privacy settings

  • It’s good to check who you are sharing your posts with. If you are not restricting who can see your posts, everyone will be able to see what you post and that includes scammers. You can change your privacy settings so that only your friends and family are able to see what you are posting. This can lessen the chance of scammers finding your information, but if there is a will there is a way and scammers could still potentially find a way to access your account. So, it’s still important to be cautious about what you are posting.

Be wary of social media trends

  • It’s fun to participate in the latest trend and let everyone know what cars you owned, from that broken down car you owned in college, to the sweet ride you have now. You can also talk about your favorite books and movies, letting everyone know how obsessed you are with Harry Potter. This is all fun and games until a scammer uses this info to hack into your bank account. Your favorite things are usually also your passwords and so be cautious with what social media trends you choose to participate in.
  • You might also want to consider adding two-factor authentication to any site that allows for it. Read more about what two-factor authentication is and adding it to your Kirtland FCU online banking account here.

What do I do if I’ve been a victim of identity theft, or I see a fake vaccine card?

It’s scary when your identity is stolen, and it might cause you to panic. The first step that you want to take is to report it to the FTC. Then you can learn about the steps to recover from identity theft by visiting here.

If you happen to see someone trying to sell a fake vaccine card report it to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or oig.hhs.gov. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center https://www.ic3.gov/.

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