FBI receives reports of Hoosiers trying to buy or sell fake vaccine cards

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INDIANAPOLIS — Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirm they have received several reports about people trying to buy or sell fake vaccination cards in the Hoosier state.

Special Agent Victoria Madtson said most of the chatter they have seen about Hoosiers buying fake documents has been on social media.

This report comes after several people were arrested in other states accused of selling fake cards. In New Jersey, police caught a woman selling hundreds of fake cards at $200 a piece. In early September, U.S. Customs agents seized about 1,500 counterfeit vaccine cards at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Also in Chicago, a pharmacist was charged with stealing official COVID vaccination cards. Investigators said he tried to sell them on eBay for $10 each. And in California, police said a bar owner was caught trying to sell fake cards at his business.

Several companies, including Amazon and Etsy, sent us statements regarding the fake documents. Each said they were not allowing the sale of vaccination cards on their websites. CBS4 did not find any listed. 

“I think we can all agree that it’s wrong,” Special Agent Madtson said. 

The sale of fake cards is becoming so widespread, the National Association of the Attorneys General sent several major websites a letter requesting they take “immediate action” on those selling the documents. Another group of attorneys general sent OfferUp a similar notice after someone reportedly found fraudulent, blank COVID vaccine cards there. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita did not sign either letter. 

CBS4 asked why and whether the state of Indiana would consider legislation that would make it a crime to forge such documents, similar to what other states like New York have done. The Office of the Attorney General responded with the following statement: 

We have previously issued joint alerts with ISDH for consumers to be wary of fake vaccination card scams. Under Indiana law IC 35-43-5-2, forgery is already a Level 6 felony, so a special law is not necessary. 

The vaccination cards were sent to the people responsible for administering the vaccination, including clinics, doctors, and pharmacies. There was nothing special about the cards, and there are no anti-fraud measures for the cards themselves. Duplicating the physical cards would be very easy. People don’t need to buy them, they can simply photocopy them. If they used those photocopies to create a fake a vaccine card, it would be forgery. 

The vaccine lot numbers that are on the vaccine cards are publicly available on the CDC website, so there is nothing that would prevent someone from using that information to forge a card, which to reiterate is already a felony under existing law. 

Schools have access to CHIRP (Children and Hoosier Immunization Registry Program https://chirp.in.gov/ ) the Indiana vaccine registry. A forged vaccine card would not enter the person in the CHIRP database, so it is unlikely to fool anyone in the education system.

Office of the Attorney General

The FBI agreed. Special Agent Madtson said it would be easy for a business or school to prove a person is lying about their vaccination status. 

“If the records are ever pulled back to the source, there won’t be a record of that particular provider giving you the record,” she explained. 

The FBI warned people who end up using counterfeit vaccine cards could face federal charges and potentially end up with a 10 to 15-year prison sentence. 

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