People Keep Trying to Buy Fake Vaccine Cards From Me

“I am interested in purchasing Covid-19 vaccine card. Please let me know what is required to make the order,” the email to me on Thursday read. This person, called Joi, probably emailed because they read a recent article explaining how I bought a fake vaccination card from online retailer Etsy.

Joi wasn’t the only one. Since publishing that piece I’ve received several other similar emails. Clearly some people have mistaken the article for a website that is actually selling the cards. (This is not uncommon; I often receive emails from people thinking I’m a hacker, or I can unlock their iCloud, or something else, seemingly because I wrote an article about a specific topic.)

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Joi, however, had not actually got the vaccine. “No… I have not,” they emailed when I asked.  They were explicitly trying to buy a fake vaccination record. In some cases this would be a crime.

“No,” another emailer called Tara said when asked if they had got a shot; they didn’t want to buy the card directly from me, but instead asked if I could put them in touch with the original Etsy seller. Etsy has since removed the listing. One person, called Gregg, said they wanted to buy vaccine cards, and that two family members had received the vaccine and one had not. Another didn’t reply when I asked if they had got the vaccine.

Are you making or selling fake vaccination cards? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

Obviously I’m a little exasperated at these people who want to source vaccination cards and not just get the vaccine. But it does still show that people who say themselves they haven’t actually got the vaccine are trying to source vaccination cards claiming otherwise. Joi’s email came on the same day that the CDC announced that people who are fully vaccinated—that is two weeks after their second shot of using Moderna or Pfizer, or two weeks after their single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine—can resume a wealth of indoor activities while unmasked. But now comes the challenge of actually verifying whether people saying they’re vaccinated really are. As John Tapper of CNN asked Anthony Fauci on Thursday, “How are restaurants, airlines, others, supposed to know if the people coming to their establishments [are vaccinated]?”

“Well, Jake, they will not be able to know. You’re gonna be depending on people being honest enough to say whether they are vaccinated or not,” Fauci replied. People clearly being motivated to source vaccine cards, which for better or worse could become a de facto piece of verification for at least some businesses beyond perhaps asking for COVID or antibody tests, complicates that.

As NBC News reported in April, pro-Trump forums have dug up templates for the cardboard COVID-19 vaccination cards people receive when getting their shot and have traded tips on how to forge them.

After Joi and others said, no, they have not received the vaccine but they were still trying to buy a fake vaccination card, I sent them some information about why the vaccine is important: because of hesitancy around the vaccines, the U.S. is unlikely to reach herd immunity in the near future, or perhaps ever. Delaying getting a vaccine can allow mutations to develop, which could then lead to more aggressive symptoms, or potentially further complicate future vaccination efforts too.

Joi and the others did not respond after I sent that email.

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