Fake COVID Vaccine Card Could Land You in jail in New York

Originally published in Hudson Valley Post on August 10, 2021.

Fake COVID vaccine cards are on the rise in New York. Anyone caught making, buying or selling a fake vaccine card could end up in jail.

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert to protect New Yorkers from the dangers of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. The sale or distribution of blank or fraudulently completed vaccination cards to individuals who have not actually received a vaccine poses a serious threat to the health of New York communities and will impede the progress that has been made in combatting COVID-19, officials say.

“As the Delta variant becomes more prominent, it is more important than ever for New Yorkers to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” James stated. “Not only do fake and fraudulently-completed vaccination cards violate federal and state laws and the public trust, but they also put the health of our communities at risk and potentially prolong this public health crisis. I strongly urge New Yorkers to reject these fake vaccination cards and get the COVID-19 vaccine, so that we can move forward from this pandemic and return to normalcy as soon as possible.”

Falsifying vaccine cards and records, as well as the unauthorized use of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seals violates various federal and New York state laws and is subject to civil and criminal enforcement, according to James.

If you are caught with a fake COVID-19 vaccine card you should face up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.

"Vaccination cards are intended to provide recipients of the coronavirus vaccine with important information regarding the type of vaccine they received and their dates of inoculation. The creation, purchase, or sale of vaccine cards by individuals is illegal and endangers public safety," the FBI states.

According to the FBI, the unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal (such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) is a crime, and may be punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws.

"Do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information," the FBI states.

In June, New York lawmakers passed a bill making it illegal to falsify vaccine records.

According to New York State Senator Anna Kaplan (D.-Long Island), who introduced the bill, falsifying a digital record of a COVID-19 vaccine is punishable by up to four years in prison. A fake paper COVID vaccine could land you in jail for a year.

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to all New Yorkers 12 years of age and older, and must be administered free of charge. To find a New York state operated vaccination site, please visit this the state's COVID-19 vaccine tracker website. Other vaccination sites can be found online.

New Yorkers are urged not to share pictures of this card online or on social media, or to at least blur out private information (date of birth, vaccination lot number, etc.). Scammers can use New Yorkers’ personal information to steal their identity, and use pictures to create fake cards.