KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At first, the 4-by-3-inch COVID-19 vaccination cards were meant to serve as a reminder for the next dose of the vaccine. But now, as many private businesses and some cities are requiring proof of vaccination, the cards are oftentimes the only way to show it.
Those businesses, including Hamburger Mary's KC and Woody's KC in Kansas City, are left to rely on the honor system.
"It's hard to tell because it could be photocopied and fake," said Jeff Edmondson, managing owner of Hamburger Mary's KC and Woody's KC. "But I mean, we're hoping that people who are anti-vaxxers will not go so far as to try to fake it."
As soon as the vaccine rolled out, scams involving vaccination cards popped up.
Brian Linder, a cyber threat-prevention expert, said negative COVID-19 tests and vaccine cards are blowing up on the dark web.
"In the dark web, $25 gets you a negative COVID-19 test, and $200 gets you what looks like an authentic CDC vaccine card," Linder said.
Last month, a 41-year-old California woman became the first to face federal charges for falsifying vaccine cards.
"The use of a government agency seal and the unauthorized use of a government agency seal is illegal," Bridget Patton, public affairs specialist at the FBI Kansas City Division, said, "and it is punishable by a hefty fine and or up to five years in prison."
Currently, there is not a federal system to authenticate the vaccination cards, which can make it easy for counterfeiters.
Some states, like Kansas and Missouri, keep immunization registries, but access is limited.
People who spot fake vaccine cards in person or online are encouraged to report it to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services or file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
"Misrepresenting yourself as being vaccinated and going into houses of worship, going into gyms, going into schools, it's not only putting you at risk, but it's also putting others at risk," Patton said.
Experts also said that people should not take pictures or selfies with their real vaccination cards. The personal information on them can lead to identity theft if it gets into the wrong hands.
This story was originally published by Andres Gutierrez on Scripps station KSHB in Kansas City.