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Scam Alert: Why posting your COVID vaccine card may lead to fraud

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CHICAGO — First, you land the appointment, then you get the vaccine. But could your vaccine card be another opportunity for fraud? 

A local expert says sharing your COVID-19 vaccination card online and through social media could become a breeding ground for fraud. Bad guys are stealing the information they contain from social media. Worse, experts say there is no reliable place to report it. 

“This card is worthless because it’s so easy to forget,” says Bill Kresse, Assistant Professor of Accounting at Governors State University—aka “Professor Fraud.”

Each vaccination card bears your name and date of birth. Kresse says that’s a great starting point for criminals trying to steal your identity.

“With that piece of information, you actually can go into the dark web, social media and get the other pieces you need, including your social security number,” he said. “You’re handing over, potentially, to identity thieves, one of the access numbers on your tumbler lock that can access your identity.”

Next, Kresse says once the bad guys see on social media that you have received your first shot, they may try to trip you before you get your second one. How? Scammers are phishing for their next victim by posing as someone rescheduling your second shot or confirming it. 

“We’re gonna need your social security number to confirm your next appointment…and now you’ve handed them your social security number,” Kresse explains.

Kresse cautions to steer clear of providing such information. It’s enough to entice even the most unskilled criminals. 

Lastly, “Professor Fraud” says the white cards with black ink are nothing more than a sticker with your name and birthday. The cards also present a public health problem. The cards are easily replaceable — anyone can find a sample card on the internet, print it, and fill it out themselves.

False cards could aid those looking to skip 14-day quarantines after they’ve traveled.

“Guess what? I don’t have to do the 14-day quarantine. I have the card,” Kresse said. “But you don’t have the vaccination.”

Kresse says even the military is not quick to accept the vaccination card because it lacks numbers, codes, and identifiers unique to you — or an embossed seal unique to the state or federal government.

For vaccination cards, not even a signature is required. 

Furthermore, the vaccine information isn’t checked against any stored data by a hospital, doctor’s office, pharmacy, or agency. Kresse says this overly simplified verification isn’t enough today. 

“In the 1970s, Illinois driver licenses were a cardboard card and the only safety feature was that the typewriter ribbon was a blue ink ribbon, ” he said. “Which was also commercially available. We don’t want people duplicating phony cards, traveling, getting access to theaters, arenas, or airplanes when they shouldn’t be there.”

Because this is all so new, Kresse says there is no way to prosecute the bad guys. Only when someone uses a vaccine card fraudulently to board a plane or enter a venue by showing they got the vaccine but actually didn’t, that’s when fraudsters could be charged with trespassing.

Bill Kresse

Why? They don’t have permission to be there. 

“It’s like going to a concert without a ticket,” Kresse said.

“Professor Fraud” says he fears this is just the beginning. Phony test kit results and black market vaccines could become an issue. According to Kresse, nothing is off the table when it comes to pulling one over on the public especially during a crisis. 

Anyone looking to report that their vaccine card has been used fraudulently should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. One of the agencies may begin to look into the claims if they begin to pull up. Neither agency has begun to do so, however.

“I think the good folks at the CDC are doing a heck of a job,” he said. “But their job doesn’t include thinking like a fraudster.”

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