Fake COVID Vaccine Card Bill Could See Makers Fined $150,000, Jailed for 10 Years

Two New Jersey lawmakers introduced a bill in the state legislature that would establish severe criminal penalties for the production, sale and use of fake COVID-19 vaccination verification cards.

Under the bill, introduced by Democrats Nicholas Scutari and Joseph Cryan, anyone who knowingly sells, offers to sell or makes such fake cards will be guilty of a second-degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of as much as $150,000.

Simply possessing a fake card would be punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine of as much as $10,000, or both.

The bill concerns cards that purport to be issued by a governmental agency, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to verify that an individual has received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Verification cards have so far been handed out to tens of millions of Americans who have received a COVID-19 vaccination.

The CDC and FBI recognize that fake cards are a growing problem, and instructions for how to forge the documents have proliferated online. Some individuals are already selling fake cards online, advertising them on social media websites, e-commerce platforms and blogs, according to the FBI.

Experts say the cards are not difficult to fake given that they are printed on easily obtainable paper, don't contain much information, and aren't marked by hand. Templates can also be found online.

"It's a cardboard paper card," Alyssa Miller, a cybersecurity expert who specializes in protecting large organizations, told NBC News. "There's absolutely nothing about it that would prevent you from reproducing it."

Some venues will only allow fully vaccinated people to be around others without social distancing, which is creating a motive for people who don't want to receive a shot to obtain a fake card.

"Some people just aren't interested in getting the vaccine, but they want to go to a particular venue that's going to require it," Scutari told News 12 Bronx. "Anybody with a laser printer and some bit of technical expertise could probably manufacture a pretty decent counterfeit."

Scutari told Insider NJ that the bill was designed to "preserve the integrity" of COVID-19 vaccination verification cards so that the state could continue opening its economy while also managing the spread of the virus.

"As the number of vaccinated citizens continues to rise, it is imperative that we have a plan in place to appropriately address potential bad actors who may attempt to deceive others with a fake COVID-19 vaccination verification card," he said.

As well as establishing criminal penalties, the bill would also require the state Attorney General to establish a COVID-19 vaccination fraud prevention program.

The FBI in March issued a public-service announcement addressing the issue of fake COVID-19 vaccination verification cards.

"If you did not receive the vaccine, do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information. 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 announcement read.

COVID-19 vaccination record card
Stock image showing a doctor holding a COVID-19 vaccination record card. Two New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would establish criminal penalties for the production, sale and use of fake COVID-19 vaccination verification cards. iStock