How Using or Supplying Fake Covid Vaccination Cards is Punishable as a Federal Crime

How Using or Supplying Fake Covid Vaccination Cards is Punishable as a Federal Crime

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented number of legal issues for lawmakers to contend with. As the nation’s vaccine program continues to roll out, one of the most recent of these issues relates to the forging of vaccine cards and so-called ‘vaccine passports’. Although there is talk of new laws that will be passed to counter some of the challenges COVID has brought to the nation, the FBI has made it clear that existing laws are being broken if vaccination paperwork is fraudulently created or used.

With access to social media websites and less than five minutes of your time, you can almost certainly find someone selling fake vaccine cards or providing blank vaccination record cards. These fake cards are extremely convincing – they’re often perfect copies, complete with legitimate-looking vaccine batch numbers and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) seal.

Interestingly, it’s the CDC official government agency’s seal that’s given the FBI the power to move so quickly on this new pandemic issue. Official FBI public service announcements have made it clear that unauthorized use of a Federal Government seal is a crime – one that can carry a $5,000 fine or up to 5 years in prison.  

Fake vaccine paperwork is a problem for everyone

There’s no getting around the fact that COVID-19 vaccinations are a contentious issue – but whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s reasonable to say that fake vaccine cards are bad news for everyone. Whether you’re for or against mass immunization, the widespread ability to buy fake vaccine cards means that the Biden administration is being forced to consider alternatives – such as a COVID vaccine passports.

While everyone wants to be kept safe from any potential danger, more rigorous steps to prevent fraud could very well mean tightening of controls around various civil liberties – not least the freedom of movement between venues, workplaces, and possibly even states.

Even without more drastic measures being put in place, the FBI warns that “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.”

The Bureau has even gone on to state, “Because individuals may use fake vaccine cards to misrepresent themselves as vaccinated, we strongly encourage businesses, schools, places of worship, and government agencies to follow CDC guidance and continue to maintain social distancing and use personal protective equipment.”

The message is clear – if people continue to commit fraud, the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the daily life of US citizens will continue to roll on.

Why are people seeking fake vaccine cards?

If fake COVID-19 paperwork is such bad news – why exactly are people keen to own vaccine cards that show false information? FBI spokesperson Amy Alexander suggests vaccine incentives are partly to blame. Alexander notes the significant number of venues that are now offering everything from free food to VIP access for people who can prove they’re vaccinated.

On the one hand, offering incentives as part of a push to get vaccines into people’s arms is understandable – no one wants to revisit the public health emergency that the peak of the pandemic brought. Equally though, where there’s an incentive on offer, people who don’t want the vaccine but don’t want to miss out on an offer seem willing to break the rules.

What happens if you’re caught with a fake vaccine card or caught lying about your vaccination status?

At the moment, the enforcement served by the FBI seems to have primarily focused on those people who are caught manufacturing and selling fake vaccine cards. As previously mentioned, these people are committing a federal crime when they misuse the CDC government seal.

The FBI has stated that this act could be punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws. The result could be fines of up to $5,000 or 5 years in prison. Of course, this doesn’t account for other charges that could be brought relating to the nature of the sale of fake documentation – including potential wire and mail fraud charges. If found guilty of wire or mail fraud, it’s not unusual to see penalties of up to $250,000 or 20 years imprisonment.

Further, there are numerous state charges in New York  that could result from such acts, including Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree,  both felony charges with the potential for jail time. 

The punishments that could come from the use of fake vaccination cards are not yet apparent – but where fake credentials are being used to access workplaces, buildings, or equipment, prosecutors will only have to prove that the user has an intent to violate trust for the act to be considered a crime.

Have you witnessed criminal activity relating to fake COVID 19 vaccination paperwork?

The nation’s security services rely on the support of members of the public to draw their attention to criminal activity where it occurs. The way fraudsters are marketing fake COVID paperwork directly to US citizens makes this support more important than ever.

The FBI asks that any suspicious activity involving fake vaccination cards be reported to the appropriate government agency in your state or jurisdiction, HHS-OIG (1-800-HHS-TIPS or; or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (

Could your personal information be used fraudulently?

Given that there are some checks and balances in place to prevent obvious vaccination card fraud, counterfeiters are thought to be exploring private individual’s social media channels in an effort to find legitimate vaccination details. If found, these details can potentially be re-used by criminals to create vaccine cards or complete blank vaccination record cards.

As such, the FBI has warned people who have received the vaccine to not post photos of their vaccination card online.

Have you been involved in creating counterfeit vaccine cards?

Since most marketing of fake COVID vaccination paperwork has taken place on social media websites and e-commerce platforms, it’s reasonable to assume that the FBI have the means to follow any digital breadcrumb trail back to a potential perpetrator.

If you suspect that you could or will come under the scrutiny of the FBI, or you believe that you are the subject of a state or federal investigation,  it’s absolutely essential that you have experienced legal representation in your corner. As well as substantial fines and prison (along with a very long list of other potential charges and punishments), fraudulent use of government seals is the kind of crime that could impact your ability to find employment for the rest of your life.