How to Spot a Fake Vaccine Card

  • By Emmett
  • Jun 10, 2022

In 2021, the U.S. Border Patrol seized nearly 23,000 fake vaccination cards that looked authentic enough to appear they came from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). This number represents only a fraction of the total fake card market. Even if you know what to look for, some fake vaccination cards can be difficult to identify. The first step is to learn what exactly a vaccine card is, and the common clues to look for when you believe one has been falsified. 

What is a Vaccine Card?

vaccination record card

A vaccine card is a document specifically related to your COVID-19 vaccination, as opposed to a vaccine record which provides a history of all immunizations you have received. Your vax card will be given to you after your first COVID-19 vaccination and will contain information like: 

  • First Name, Last Name, and Middle Initial
  • Date of Birth
  • Patient Number
  • Type of Vaccine
  • Date of Immunization
  • Healthcare Professional or Clinic Site

With each COVID-19 immunization, another block of information will be filled in; this will include the type of vaccine, the date you received each subsequent shot, and the site of the immunization. That’s why it's important to hold onto your card and to take a picture after initially receiving it. You’ll need that card when you return for your second dose or booster so your provider will have the medical records they need.

Individuals may also be asked for a card at any business or venue that requires proof of vaccination. Many private businesses either instituted these policies voluntarily or were instructed to by mandates, with government buildings in many states also requiring proof of vaccination. This is what led many, who didn’t wish to get a vaccine, to seek fake vaccination cards.

However, having multiple options is one of the backbones of capitalism. If a business requires a vax card from its customers, then anti-vaxxers always have the option of going to a different establishment.

The same doesn’t hold true for the employees.

Can Businesses Mandate Employee Vaccinations?

Part of President Biden’s proposed COVID-19 Action Plan required employers with over 100 employees to be fully vaccinated. Any businesses that didn’t comply with this rule must perform weekly testing on unvaccinated employees.

It’s essential to note that the exact guidelines in this plan have been altered to fit each state. Most alterations revolve around being mindful and fair to each employee’s situation. Mandates must take disabilities, religious practices, and other discriminatory factors into account.

The definition of “reasonable exceptions” will vary, making it harder to create vaccination requirements.

Why Businesses Must Recognize Fake Vaccine Cards

In a traditional workplace, people spend most of their waking hours around their colleagues. Knowing who is and isn’t safe to interact with is essential. Not knowing this information leads to increased office sicknesses and a loss of productivity.

In 2022, about a third of businesses in the US required employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Many refused to get a vaccination and acquired fake vax cards.

This creates an obvious workplace safety issue. Employees believe that all of their coworkers are vaccinated and become laxer in social distancing and other preventative habits. Not identifying a fake vaccination card after implementing a mandate could have very detrimental effects.

In these cases, one of the key concerns is whether an organization is liable if an employee falsely reports their vaccination status, and an outbreak occurs. Legal repercussions are unlikely so long as the company proves that reasonable steps were taken to verify the employee’s claim.

On the flip side, if a company was negligent in confirming an employee’s vaccination status, it’s far more likely they’ll be successfully sued. So, every vaccination mandate should have a clear and consistent verification process. What constitutes proof should be crystal clear, and managers must keep detailed vaccination card records.

Tips for Spotting a Fake Vaccination Card

How to Spot a Fake Vaccine Card

While some cards may be obviously fake, others can be very convincing. There are several elements you should look at when determining if a vaccine card is fake, including:

  • Incorrect Dates: One common mistake that card forgery will make is not lining up the dates properly on the vaccinations. The first and second dose should be several weeks apart; if the difference between the two is much shorter or longer, that should raise suspicions. Also make sure that the second dose and any boosters are dated after the initial dose. Criminals aren’t always the brightest, and may accidentally create an immunization timeline that isn’t even possible. 
  • Misspelt Words: Another error present on many fake vaccine cars is misspelled words. If the name of the manufacturer, name of the care provider, or any medical terminology is misspelled, the card is almost certainly a fake. On some cards, the fake will even have the name of the vaccine recipient spelt wrong; make sure to read the card over closely to catch any spelling errors. 
  • Unknown Manufacturers: For the most part, the manufacturers of the vaccine written on the card will be either Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson (J&J). While there are some other vaccine manufacturers, any name but these three should be researched and verified. 
  • Fake Providers: If you are familiar with the area, you may spot incorrect or fake provider information. If the forger doesn’t know what clinics are in the area, they will usually just make one up. With the right knowledge this can be spotted easily, and a quick online search will verify the provider is indeed fake. 
  • Thin Material: A real vaccine card should be made of a thicker material like cardstock, not a thin piece of normal printer paper. If the person who created the fake card isn’t attentive to detail, they’ll usually just use whatever materials they have on hand. If the paper seems to have been cut by scissors, that too is a red flag; a standard Center for Disease Control card will not have the border left behind on cut paper. 

Zero or Inconsistent Handwriting: If all of the text on the card is printed, that is a big indicator the document has been falsified. Real vaccine cards will show handwriting from each provider indicating what manufacturer’s vaccine was administered, the date of the immunization, and where the immunization took place. If there is handwriting, but it's the same for both shots or the booster, that should raise your suspicions as well. Because the shots take place weeks apart, the medical professional who administers the immunization will almost always be a different person.

How Common are Forged Vaccination Cards?

The number of people searching out fake vaccination cards rose with the appearance of COVID-19 variants. The increased boosters and confusion over the process didn’t help either.

Similarly to a high school student getting a fake ID, there are now dedicated operations to creating fake vax cards. These services are typically sought out by employees of businesses with vaccination policies and consumers wanting access to social events.

Social media, online marketplaces, and the dark web frequently host advertisements for fake cards. Some people have even gotten caught trying to pass off DIY versions. These attempts end in predictable failures as the creators often don’t know what a vaccine card looks like or its identifiers.

There have been multiple public cases of people using fake cards.

  • Evander Kane, an NHL player, received a 21-game suspension for submitting a fake vaccine card. The physical and close-contact nature of sports like hockey, football, and basketball required the governing institutions to enforce strict vaccination guidelines for players.
  • CNBC reported that a couple of New York nurses on Long Island were forging vaccination cards. They added the cards to the state’s official database and profited over $1.5 million from the practice.
  • A woman in New Jersey, dubbed “AntiVaxMomma,” sold hundreds of fake cards through Instagram. The asking price was $200 for the card and an extra $250 to enter it into an official database.

Many seized cards were also traced back to China, displaying how widespread distribution channels can be. These events have pushed several senators and law enforcement members to push for increased policing of fake card operations.

How to Handle a Suspected Fake Vax Card

Any manager that believes an employee submitted a fake vax card is in for a tough conversation. Of course, if you’re sure the document is forged, you need to follow your company’s regulatory processes.

However, some cards are incredibly detailed, and problems could be chalked up to printing errors at the pharmacy. Here are a few things to consider before confronting them.

Act Consistently

Understand that you need to treat all employees equally. If management made an exception for one employee, then that same standard needs to carry over to everyone else. Acting otherwise risks an employee taking legal action against you for discrimination.

The exact details of what exempts employees from vaccination requirements should always be immediately communicated to the entire organization. Additionally, updates need to happen just as promptly if new cases arise. No matter how small the change is.

Think twice before confronting employees with fake vaccine cards if you haven’t acted consistently. You may want to tweak your approach and come to the conversation with a more understanding attitude.

Document Records

Communicating guidelines is only step one in handling the situation smoothly. Managers should organize and store all these communications as well. This includes emails, meeting details, postings, and policy announcements.

Not only does this give them something to reference to discern if a card is fake, but it also demonstrates reasonable care to a court. The more thoroughly a company keeps its records, the less likely that a lawsuit will be successful against them. 

Stay Mindful of Each Person’s Situation

If someone puts in the effort to find a fake vaccination card, it’s worth assuming they have their reasons. It’s dangerous to approach the conversation assuming that an unvaccinated employee is lazy or ignorant.

Vaccine conversations must be treated sensitively, as with all political and personal subjects. Respect their opinions but stand behind the policies that your business put in place. If they act reasonably, severe punishments could be avoidable in favor of frequent testing. Making this known early in the conversation will help things move more comfortably, if possible.

Of course, don’t share the vaccination status of any employees with others.

Faking a Vaccine Card is a Federal Offense

If you identify someone who has a fake vaccine card, be cautious; falsifying a document like a vax card is a federal offense, and the person carrying it is engaged in identity theft.

The crime becomes increasingly severe if the fake card includes forged government seals. Depending on the specifics of the case, punishments can range from a $5,000 fine to up to five years in prison.

Don’t share any personal information with someone in possession of a fake vaccination card; if you do, you’ll want to run an identity threat scan to make sure your information is safe. Don’t post pictures of your vaccine card, as this could be used as a template to create a fake! Always be on the lookout for scammers, and take every precaution to safeguard your information online.

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