GOLDEN, Colo. (KDVR) – People who make, sell or display fake or unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine cards for a fraudulent purpose will be the target of Colorado’s attorney general.
The fraud crimes could result in thousands of dollars in fines or land someone in jail.
“Those who would perpetrate frauds like this — who would break the rules, who would lie to people — you’re endangering everyone’s public health,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
According to a spokesperson for Weiser’s office, selling fake vaccine cards and participating in the unauthorized use of federal seals and logos are federal crimes, but selling vaccine cards also can be charged under Colorado forgery laws as either a class 5 felony or a class 1 misdemeanor.
“We’re going to go after people using whatever authorities we can,” said Weiser. “We will also work with other authorities: district attorneys – in some cases, the U.S. attorney – to prosecute people criminally, where they’re engaged in reprehensible conduct.”
Tipster reports fake vaccine card sales
The Problem Solvers received a tip from a concerned viewer who found someone advertising fake cards on a firearms website. The seller suggested the cards could be “replacements” for legitimate, authorized vaccine cards.
The tipster said he was concerned that people would use these fake cards to pretend they had gotten the vaccine when they really hadn’t.
“It shocked me, and then it frustrated me,” said the man, who preferred to remain anonymous.
He said he suffers from asthma and has a family member going through chemotherapy for cancer.
“It’s not only the death toll. It’s the long-haul symptoms,” the tipster said. “I know several people who still don’t have taste. They’re lethargic. Plus, the medical workers. They’ve dealt with these people over a year, and I don’t think that’s fair to them either.”
According to data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 255,167 people developed COVID-19 in Colorado between Jan. 1-Aug. 30 of this year. Of those cases, 92.8% were unvaccinated or had only received a partial vaccine at the time their diagnosis was documented.
Of the people who had COVID-19 between Jan. 1-Aug. 23, 2021, who were so sick they had to be hospitalized, 94.5% were unvaccinated or people who only had a partial vaccine.
Nearly 95% of people who died between Jan. 1-Aug. 16, 2021, because of COVID-19 were people who did not have a vaccine or only had a partial dose.
How the scammer tried to pull of the fraud
FOX31 went undercover to learn the lengths to which someone would go to profit off of vaccine card fraud.
The seller offered a series of five cards to the Problem Solvers for a “donation” of $100. He suggested meeting in a Golden parking lot – where there is a gym, a brewery, and a gas station – to do the exchange.
The Problem Solvers recorded the exchange. The seller chuckled as he avoided using language that would suggest he was committing a crime. He said he was taking donations for “replacement” cards rather than selling fraudulent vaccine cards.
Weiser said he wasn’t fooled by the language and called the behavior “slimy.”
“This is not what vaccine cards are for – to be trafficked on the street,” said Weiser, as he looked at the video the Problem Solvers recorded.
“And the fact that he says, ‘You do with them what you want’ doesn’t mean that what he’s doing is OK,” Weiser said. “He is clearly trying to protect himself, but the idea that he’s engaged in a legitimate public health enterprise is an affront to the basic idea that we have these cards that are given by people authorized to give the vaccine. He’s not authorized to give the vaccine. I don’t know how he got the cards, but the fact that he is giving them to people to fill out themselves is wrong.”
Weiser urged people who see consumer fraud like this to report the fraud to stopfraudcolorado.com.
The Problem Solvers’ tipster said he reported the issue to that site and to other federal agencies, including the FBI.
“For anyone who has a vaccine card from a public health provider, if you lose it, they have a record of you getting a vaccine. That’s where you should go to get a replacement. Someone selling these cards on the street for people to fill them out is engaging in criminal conduct, and it’s wrong,” he said.