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Scammers could use information from your vaccine card selfie to sell fake cards online, experts say

Experts say information from your COVID vaccine card is all scammers need to sell fake ones online.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Noel Osborn couldn’t wait to share she got her COVID vaccine. 

“I was really excited," she said. 

She took a selfie, with her vaccine card. 

“I thought me sharing that I had gotten vaccinated would help encourage some of the other people in my life," said Osborn, who lives in Lexington.

She blurred her patient ID, but left her birthday and some other information. 

“Maybe I should have blurred that out. I’m not sure," she said. 

Experts say information from your COVID vaccine card is all scammers need to sell fake ones online, creating a thriving black market for people who don’t want to get a vaccine: about 30% of Americans, according to a Pew Research study, conducted in February. 

Reanna Smith-Hamblin of Louisville’s Better Business Bureau says scammers see vaccine hesitancy as opportunity.

“They’re pulling images, they’re pulling birth dates, they’re pulling names," said Smith-Hamblin, CEO of Louisville Better Business Bureau.

 “If someone posts the card, should they blur out everything? asked FOCUS investigative reporter Paula Vasan.

“Yeah, you’d be better off if you blur out everything or not put the card up at all,"  Smith-Hamblin said. 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein agrees. He’s been finding fake COVID vaccine cards online, selling for sometimes hundreds of dollars. Earlier this month, he took action, writing a letter to try and put a stop to it. Nearly 50 other U.S. state and territory attorneys general, including Kentucky’s Daniel Cameron, signed it. They’re urging the companies where fake cards are popping up -- like Twitter, eBay, and Shopify -- to crack down on fraudulent sales. 

“We want them to do a better job policing the website to make sure that these are not sold on their platforms," said Stein.

We reached out to eBay, Twitter and Shopify directly, asking what they’re doing about it. They each told us selling COVID-19 vaccine cards is a violation of their policy. When they see it, they take it down. Stein calls it a matter of public safety. 

“What is the impact of these scammers selling these vaccine cards online?” asked Vasan.

“We will be in this COVID-19 pandemic longer. We need folks to get their vaccine, get their shot when it’s their turn," Stein said.  

Knowing all of this, Osborn said she may have been more private. 

“Maybe blur out all of the information so you could just tell that it’s a CDC card, it is official," she said.

Osborn said she just hopes others like her are careful when posting on social media. 

Since COVID, the Better Business Bureau has seen a 46% uptick in reported scams, the vast majority being online.  

RESOURCES

If you’ve been a victim of a scam or fraud, you should contact your attorney general by visiting www.consumerresources.org.

►Contact reporter Paula Vasan at pvasan@whas11.com on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

►Have a story tip? Contact the FOCUS Investigative team at FOCUS@whas11.com