FLORIDA, USA — Recently, reports said a South Florida couple was caught and arrested for trying to use fake vaccine cards for themselves and their two young children during a trip to Hawaii.
Authorities were tipped off to the fakes because the couple had vaccine cards for their children, both of whom were reportedly 5 or under 5 years old. That means they were too young to even be vaccinated. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children ages 12 and older.
About a week before that, two other people traveling to Hawaii were arrested for attempting to pass off fake vaccine cards, too.
The FBI warned that creating or buying a fake vaccination card is a criminal offense carrying fines and up to 5 years in prison.
“One federal statute makes it a crime for the unauthorized use of the seal of a U.S. government agency,” Josh Morrill, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI told KSDK's PJ Randhawa.
According to the FBI, there are different federal statutes that can be used to prosecute cases involving fake cards. The severity of the case will dictate which statutes will be used to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Some of the statutes that can be used for prosecution in these cases are:
- Government seals wrongfully used (18 USC 1017) which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine.
- Embezzlement and theft of public money, property, or record (18 USC 641), which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine.
- Wire fraud (18 USC 1343), which carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a fine.
Other penalties can come through violating COVID-19 mandates, including falsifying a vaccination card, which is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine of up to $5,000, and up to a year in prison.
According to the FBI, fake vaccine cards can be found online for as little as $25, and the confirmation process can be as simple as uploading a picture of the card to an online student portal.
A public service announcement from the FBI is reminding the public that it is a federal crime to forge the seal of an official government agency.
Anyone who spots a fake vaccine card in person or online should report it to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or file a complaint with the FBI’s internet crime complaint center.
The Associated Press and KSDK's PJ Randhawa contributed to this report.