As the delta variant sweeps across the nation and hospitalizations increase, there is another rising concern: fake COVID vaccination cards.
The low-tech cards are increasingly being required to travel or gain access to public events and businesses. Those who get a COVID-19 vaccine are given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination card, which says what COVID-19 vaccine they received, the date they received it and where it was administered.
But some people are paying for blanks instead, citing a number of reasons as to why they prefer not to get the free vaccine.
The most recent fake vaccine news comes out of New York, where a man was arrested in October after his employer reported that he had provided a plagiarized COVID-19 vaccine card, according to the New York State Police.
David R. Kemp, 24, of Eaton, New York, was charged with a second-degree possession of a forged instrument, which qualifies for a Class D felony in the state. The unauthorized use of a government agency’s seal is a federal crime.
This year, federal agencies have reported seizing thousands of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards, and that was just in one Southern state.
Seizing fake vaccine cards: Federal agents have seized over 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccine cards in Memphis in 2021
Anyone caught selling or possessing counterfeit cards could be arrested, face heavy fines and even jail time.
The rise of fake COVID vaccination cards has agencies including the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and others issuing warnings of penalties associated with buying and selling the fake federal document.
Here is what we know about fake vaccine cards:
Where are people finding and building fake vaccine card templates?
A quick Internet search and finding a template for a vaccine card isn't hard. Others are finding them on e-commerce sites prompting attorneys general to call on company CEOs to act.
“The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threaten the health of our communities, slow progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states,” reads the letter signed by 47 of America’s attorneys general.
Prices were $10 or more, according to reports from federal agencies. However, the price for the vaccine with a legitimate vaccine card in the United States is free.
'Maderna' vaccine card in Hawaii
A woman attempting to go to Hawaii brought a COVID vaccine card with her, except it reportedly had the shot maker listed as "Maderna," instead of Moderna.
Chloe Mrozak was arrested at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu on Saturday for violating Hawaii Gov. David Ige's emergency proclamation, Gary H. Yamashiroya, spokesperson for the Department of the Attorney General, confirmed to USA TODAY.
Mrozak is the latest of several arrests of vacationers coming to the island and being accused of having fake COVID vaccine cards.
What's the difference between a real and fake COVID vaccine card
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents reported the fake cards that agents have seized have several telltale signs, but do look very similar to cards issued to vaccinated people.
The most prominent are word misspellings.
"The cards have blanks for the recipient’s name and birthdate, the vaccine maker, lot number, and date and place the shot was given, as well as the Centers for Disease Control logo in the upper right corner. However, there were typos, unfinished words and some of the Spanish verbiage on the back was misspelled," the agency's press release stated.
What happens if you get caught with a fake vaccine card?
Earlier in 2021, the FBI released a statement about the uptick in the number of fake vaccine cards circulating in the United States. The agency warned people that doing so is a crime.
"By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, the unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal (such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) is a crime," read a statement from the FBI.
Fines are also a possibility if caught with a fraudulent vaccination card.
Two people traveling to Hawaii in August face up to one year in prison and up to $5,000 in fines after allegedly falsifying vaccination cards. They were reportedly trying to skirt the island's 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated people.
Antonio Brown suspension
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Thursday that they suspended Antonio Brown and two other NFL players over COVID-19 violations. According to USA Today, The suspensions come two weeks after a Los Angeles chef told the Tampa Bay Times that Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card shortly before the start of training camp in July. Steven Ruiz provided the news site a screenshot of a text message exchange in which Brown’s girlfriend asked the player’s former live-in chef if he could obtain Johnson & Johnson vaccination cards.
When the personal chef replied he could try, the girlfriend responded “Ab said he would give you $500.”
Ruiz, who also claimed Brown owes him an uncollected debt of $10,000, told the newspaper he was unable to find a vaccination card for Brown.
The chef added that a few weeks later he observed two vaccine cards on a dining room table that the receiver told him were purchased for the player and his girlfriend.
Delta variant surge and hospital capacity
Authorities believe the rise in people obtaining fake vaccination cards is linked to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
As the delta variant increases across the United States, area hospitals are bearing the toll.
Search data and map:COVID-19 Hospital Capacity in South Carolina
Search data and map: COVID-19 Hospital Capacity in North Carolina
Search data and map: COVID-19 Hospital Capacity in Georgia
COVID cases rose in 42 states, the lowest number in six weeks. But deaths are now increasing in 43 states, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
As of Wednesday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 2,659 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 33 new deaths statewide, based on reports the agency gathered Tuesday.
USA Today contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Fake COVID vaccine cards: What we know about fines, possible jail time