AUSTIN (KXAN) — In secret chat rooms and in plain sight, Texans are looking for ways to obtain phony COVID-19 vaccine cards, even as the delta variant continues to strangle the state, a KXAN investigation found.
On the Telegram app, one group called “Texas Vaccination Card CDC” has nearly 4,100 members. Anonymous sellers offer fake vaccine cards, immunization records and “fit to fly certificates” for an undisclosed payment in bitcoin.
Another group, called “Fake Vaccine Cards,” has 73,122 subscribers.
“Watch out and stay away from the vaccine its [sic] poisonous,” one seller wrote. “Get your cards without taking the vaccine and stay safe.”
Fake cards, which are illegal, are being marketed to Austinites online, including on craigslist, a KXAN investigation found. On eBay, one seller from Plano told KXAN in a series of messages he sold 40 fake CDC cards at $60 a piece, including 10 to Austin addresses. He claims to have sold “a couple” to nurses here and said his customers include flight attendants, business workers and people who work in offshore oil drilling who all oppose getting the vaccine, which has been proven safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization.
“People are losing jobs, because they have a fear of taking the shot,” the seller said. “These are tough times for people… and people from all over are requesting the cards for lots of different reason[s].”
Sellers are using other social media as well, including Instagram and Twitter, to target potential buyers. KXAN found some fake cards selling online for around $150.
St. Edwards University requires incoming students be vaccinated, but officials do not suspect students of bypassing the requirements, which would violate federal law, saying it has not been an issue since students are able to file an exemption.
An investigation by the Associated Press found faculty and students at dozens of schools nationwide are concerned, however, about how easy it is to get fake vaccine cards.
In February, the FBI in El Paso warned against posting photos of your vaccine cards, because scammers were already forging and selling them. Anyone who makes or buys a fake COVID-19 vaccine card is breaking the law and endangering other people, the FBI said, and could face up to five years in prison.