Nessel, AGs warn against sale of fake COVID vaccine cards

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As COVID-19 immunizations continue to be administered into millions of arms across the country, cybercriminals are looking to cash in on fake vaccination cards, supported by those who don’t want the shot.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with dozens of other state attorneys general, is calling on OfferUp, an online mobile marketplace, to prevent fraudulent or blank COVID-19 vaccine cards from being sold on its platform. The AGs warned that people could be using their platforms to sell blank and fraudulently completed COVID vaccine cards with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) logo on them.

The AGs’ letter included an image of a blank vaccine card posting on OfferUp.com.

“Yet another platform is being used to prolong this pandemic. Earlier this month, I joined my colleagues in urging Twitter, eBay and Shopify to help prevent the sale of fraudulent vaccine cards to protect public health. I echo that sentiment with OfferUp and remind Michiganders to contact my office if you spot scams related to COVID-19,” Nessel said.

Also signing the letter to OfferUp are the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said on Monday that he also warned about online platforms being used to sell fake vaccination cards and he urges OfferUp to stop selling them.

“Nevadans, making these fake cards is illegal and could put our entire health and safety plan at risk. Please be wary of misinformation and file a complaint with my office if you come across any scams related to COVID-19,” Ford said.

In their letter, the attorneys general urge OfferUp to take down ads or links selling blank or fraudulent vaccination cards and preserve records and information about the ads and the people selling them.

Because these are federal documents, Ford warned that purchasing or selling fake cards violates state laws and will result in criminal penalties. He also cautioned against posting pictures of vaccination cards online, as posting your vaccine card could give scammers an opportunity to use personal information and commit identity theft.

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“Frankly, every time I see someone post a card I cringe,” Ford said during a COVID update call. “We advise folks if you have a photo of your vaccination card take it down.”

For those who feel the urge to share they’ve been vaccinated, Ford suggested posting a picture of themselves getting the shot.

Legitimate vaccination cards are given by providers when they administer the vaccine free of charge. If a vaccine provider prompts a patient to purchase a vaccination card, that is a red flag that you are dealing with a scammer, warned Ford.

Identifying fake cards could pose a challenge, said Ford, due to the fact that scammers are using the official CDC logo.

Karissa Loper, deputy bureau chief at Nevada’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said the state is tracking vaccinations using the state’s immunization registry and personal electronic records, meaning any health professional can look up digital records to confirm someone’s status.

A version of this story first ran in the Advance’s sister outlet, the Nevada Current.

Jennifer Solis
Jeniffer Solis is a reporter with the Nevada Current. She was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies.
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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.