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Thriving market for fake vaccine cards

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Thriving market for fake vaccine cards

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As more people in the US are asked to prove they have been vaccinated in order to work, study or socialise, a flourishing black market in fake vaccination cards has sprung up. But what can be done to tackle it?

The operator behind “Covid19vaccinecardsss” took just seconds to reply. One of a slew of Instagram accounts hawking fake proof of Covid-19 vaccination cards, whoever was running the page was eager to sell, inviting the BBC to move over to an encrypted messaging app to make a deal.

For $100, the vendor would deliver a “registered” card, with either the logo of the US Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) or Britain’s National Health Service.

Payment could be made in Apple Pay or Bitcoin and delivery would be “discrete” and within 24 hours, they promised.

“Your cards will be saved into the database system,” they told the BBC. “[These are] very good original vaccine cards, no worries.”

As the Delta variant of coronavirus sweeps the US, businesses, universities and cities such as New York and San Francisco have introduced vaccine mandates to boost uptake of jabs.

But vaccine hesitancy remains high and a cottage industry for bogus inoculation cards has emerged to help people get around the rules.

Fakes have been sold on platforms from eBay to Whatsapp and there have been high profile busts, with warnings that counterfeiters and buyers could face jail.

Yet users, authorities and many others are skeptical that the use of false cards can be stopped.

Jennifer is head bartender at the busy Peculiar Pub in Greenwich Village, New York, where customers must show proof of vaccination in order to enter as part of a citywide mandate affecting bars, gyms and other indoor venues.

No one’s raised her suspicions yet but she thinks it will be “really hard” to spot fake vaccination documents, which in New York can take the form of a paper card from the health authorities or merely a photo of that card.

“As long as it’s printed and you can just write a date, how am I going to know the person that injected you and where you got it? There are hundreds and thousands of vaccination sites in the US, people can come to your home now to give you the vaccine.”

Counterfeiters appear to be doing brisk business.

Last week, customs officials in Memphis, Tennessee and Anchorage, Alaska seized 6,000 false vaccination cards in separate shipments from China destined for recipients across the US.

They were printed with the CDC logo and closely resembled the genuine cards given to US citizens when they get vaccinated. However, when officials looked closer they noticed spelling mistakes and poor printing quality. (BBC)