Not So Fast: That Vaccine Card Selfie May Be Scammer Gold

You’ve waited in line. You’ve rolled up your sleeve. You’ve been stuck with a needle. Now it’s time to show off.

Bridget Clerkin
Updated 28 May 2021
Not So Fast: That Vaccine Card Selfie May Be Scammer Gold
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United States Scam & Fraud Statistics 2020

$3.3 billion total fraud losses
4.7 million fraud reports

1.4 million reports of identity theft

Source: 2019-20 Consumer Sentinel Report

COVID-19 vaccine card selfies have become a sensation in recent months, dominating social media feeds as more people have been given the privilege of getting pricked to protect themselves from the deadly virus and return to something that may resemble normal.

But despite the genuine joy behind the occasion, experts are warning not to celebrate the moment with a picture of proof, at least not publicly.

Vaccine card selfies are a potential boon for scammers, offering anyone with less-than-honorable intentions more than enough information to dig into all sorts of schemes.

Most concerning for most people is the personal information offered up on the cards. With such details as a person’s full name, birthday, and other medical tidbits up for grabs, scammers can try to wiggle their way into your identity, using the information to pose as you online (and get into all sorts of expensive trouble, in your name). This is known as identity theft, a federal crime whose damage could take years to undo.

But the presence of such a picture online opens itself up to all sorts of other scams.

There have been reports of scammers posing as government officials, telling people they need to leave a credit card number or make a deposit to secure a second vaccination appointment. General anxiety around the idea of vaccine shortages has only helped this story gain traction.

Access to so many photos of the cards also helps scammers get all the details they need to create believable fakes.

Already made of easily duplicable paper, the cards are more prone to faking than most other essential government documents. But a deluge of vaccine card selfies can help scammers nail the format, and even the wording, to create a high-quality fraud.

Indeed, scores of these faux vaccine cards have already been appearing online, proliferating on websites like eBay and other e-commerce sites. According to the Washington Post, you can buy blank vaccine cards for as little as $9.49.

The fakes may be appealing to those who haven’t been vaccinated yet—and those who never plan to get vaccinated—to help them gain access to events that may begin limiting attendance to fully vaccinated patrons.

Someone incredibly anxious to get the vaccine process started may also be compelled to buy a fake card, pretending to have one dose of the vaccine already and using the card as an excuse to skip the appointment line.

As the access to vaccines continues to expand—and many states have opened the process to any adult willing to get pricked—the fake card issue will hopefully begin to die down. But the danger in aiding identity theft remains any time you put personal details on the web.

Experts advise resisting posting the vaccine card selfie at all. But if you insist on publicly celebrating your immunization, make sure you post an edited version of the photo that blurs out any sign of your name, birthday, the medical facility you visited, or any other potentially valuable details.