Fake CDC COVID vaccine cards becoming hot commodity on dark web

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Friday, April 2, 2021
Fake COVID vaccine cards a hot commodity on dark web
Top law enforcement officials want a crackdown on fake vaccination cards that have become a hot commodity.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and his counterparts in 44 other states are targeting the online sale of bogus COVID-19 vaccination cards.

While many Americans are being vaccinated, many people are not. So as venues and even transportation providers start requiring proof of vaccination, these official - albeit paper and hand-written - CDC cards are among the hottest items on the knock-off market today.

"We've seen a 300% increase from what was available in December," said Mark Ostrowski, the head of engineering at cybersecurity firm Checkpoint Software.

While some phony vaccine certificates are still priced at hundreds of dollars on the dark web, some less authentic-looking copies are available for free and the I-Team found more conventional platforms with versions for just a few dollars.

In their letter to the CEOs of Twitter, Shopify and eBay, the AGs asked for "immediate action to prevent your platforms from being used as a vehicle to commit these fraudulent and deceptive acts that harm our communities."

Dr. John Brownstein of Boston Children's Hospital, an ABC News medical contributor, said the danger is that people who "are hesitant to get the vaccine, for whatever reason, may turn to alternatives. They potentially have real risk of carrying the virus and transmitting to others."

RELATED | Increased use of vaccine passports could lead to scams, experts warn

The White House this week announced national guidelines in the works for managing so-called vaccine passports, providing digital proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test results, while other countries are taking the step of administering the vaccine passports themselves.

"Unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens," said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The FBI has also issued a special alert warning the public of making or buying fake vaccination cards.

Even filling in an actual card with your own information if it isn't true is a potential violation. The FBI cites a federal law against misusing official government logos such as the CDC, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

ABC7 attempted to contact all three companies. eBay and Shopify responded with the following statements.

EBAY STATEMENT: At eBay, our first priority is to ensure the safety of our employees and customers around the world. We are taking significant measures to block or quickly remove items on our marketplace that make false health claims including vaccine ID cards or similar items that could be used to falsely represent a person has received the vaccine. We are making every effort to ensure that anyone who sells on our platform follows local laws and eBay policies.

SHOPIFY STATEMENT: Selling COVID-19 vaccine cards is a violation of Shopify's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Our teams have worked extensively since the start of the pandemic to proactively protect consumers from fraudulent or misleading practices relating to COVID-19. We have been proactively monitoring our platform for the sale of COVID vaccine cards since February, and all stores that we identified for violating our policies were actioned swiftly. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the State Attorneys General to protect consumers from fraudulent or misleading practices related to COVID-19.