(WSYM) — Employers, universities, and businesses are requiring people to get COVID-19 vaccines. The process is simple, just provide the CDC vaccination card. But for those not vaccinated, they could be tempted to fake it.
And that can be easily done.
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Federal officials here in mid-Michigan say this could become a major problem, especially with tens of thousands of college students going back to class.
The University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, and others are requiring students to be vaccinated to be on campus.
"It’s mandatory, but I got mine so it’s OK," said Alyson Orosky, a WSU student.
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WSU officials say students have to submit a picture of their CDC vaccination cards online through the student portal.
In just the last couple of weeks, we’ve watched major push back against employers, including hospital systems requiring employees to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. Exceptions are given for religious or health reasons.
"This is a tricky one. I happen to be very pro-vaccine, so I don't really ... want anything to do with anybody who doesn't want a vaccine, and I don't want my kids to have anything to do with somebody who doesn't want a vaccine. That said ... the government cannot force anybody to do anything, let alone take a vaccine," said Anjeli Prasad, a former federal prosecutor.
But there's always another way.
The feds are warning people not to go find blank vaccination cards on the internet and commit fraud.
"We’ve seen a 300% increase from what was available in December," said a representative from the cybersecurity firm Check Point.
According to Check Point, this is a listing on the dark web offering a fake vaccine card for $150.
And to avoid being traced, the vendor uses cryptocurrency for payment.
The sales pitch: not everybody will want to take the COVID-19 vaccine and we provide proof of having been vaccinated.
"I heard this and I thought this was just ripe for abuse because my kid can make this vaccine card in our basement, they're very easy to rip off," said Prasad.
The feds have issued warnings, this is a major felony. Fines of thousands of dollars and up to 5 years in prison, or both.
"I don’t think that all of a sudden, the feds are gonna start cracking down on the phony vaccine cards I mean, they sort of have their hands full with the phony vaccines, right, and with people who are stealing COVID money," said Prasad.
But a major federal case just broke in northern California based on a tip from a patient. The feds moved in on a doctor who was selling a homeopathic prophylaxis pellet method of a COVID vaccine.
Patients would be exposed to a diluted amount of COVID in the pellets for a few days, and the claim was to build up antibodies. The treatment was sold for use by adults, children, and even babies, according to the 23-page federal complaint.
The patients who bought this treatment for up to $150 were then given a COVID vaccine card.
This doctor further claimed that the FDA-approved vaccines used around the world contain toxic elements.
"I’m not surprised something like this has happened. I’m surprised it took so long," said the doctor's neighbor Ethan Gladner.
Back here, no known cases of fake vaccine cards.
But we were told by WSU, the cards submitted by students are not verified. They are on the honor system. Students who do get caught face school sanctions.
"The COVID compliance is under the student code of conduct. So if anyone is caught in violation, they would just go through the process for that through the students' office," said Brandon Shamoun, WSU coordinator of student engagement.
We reached out to Michigan State University and the University of Michigan to see if they're verifying information in the vaccination card. We have yet to hear back.