More People Googling 'How To Buy Fake Vaccine Cards' As January 4 Mandate Deadline Nears

Google searches for the term "fake vaccination cards" have risen sharply since the announcement on Thursday that President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate will come into effect on January 4, 2022.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled the deadline and further details of the plan to require companies with 100 or more employees to make sure workers are either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.

The OSHA also announced that health care employers would be obliged to have a fully vaccinated workforce, with no option for testing instead. About 83 million Americans will be affected by the mandate, with the stricter health care rule applying to around 17 million.

The increase in "fake vaccine card" searches, which have risen by about 90 percent over the past day, mirrors the reaction in September when Biden first announced the vaccine mandate.

According to a report by Check Point Research, the cost of fake cards bearing the logo of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jumped from $100 on September 2 to $200 after the president's announcement a week later.

The number of online sellers of bogus cards on Telegram, an encrypted messaging service, increased by a factor of 10, the study found. Online fake card vendors rose from 1,000 on August 10 to 10,000 by September 23.

Check Point Research also found a sharp rise in the membership of Telegram groups that offered fake cards.

"Prior to the announcement, we observed Telegram groups having as many as 25,000-30,000 subscribers and followers," it said. "Biden's announcement resulted in an immediate acceleration in the number of subscribers and followers, with some groups even peaking at a follower size as large as 300,000, a number we have not previously spotted."

The law firm Fisher Phillips has warned that fake vaccination cards could become a "major headache" for employers, who could be fined close to $14,000 for each violation of the OSHA regulations.

Companies found to have willfully flouted the rules could be fined as much as $136,000.

Fisher Phillips also pointed out that the counterfeit cards often feature the seal of the CDC, a government agency. The misuse or forgery of government seals can be punished with a prison sentence of up to five years, the law firm said.

Several high-profile incidents suggest that some Americans are willing to take this risk, however.

In October, the National Hockey League suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games without pay after he allegedly submitted a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

In September, before the mandate was announced, Jasmine Clifford of New Jersey was charged for allegedly selling hundreds of fake cards via her Instagram account.

The Check Point Research report found that the majority of fake vaccine cards in the U.S. have come from outside the country, however.

In September, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Cincinnati seized over 1,500 fake cards heading into the country from China. The package also contained over 2,000 fake Pzifer inoculation stickers.

In August, border control officers in Memphis seized a shipment of 52 vaccination cards also headed into the country from China. It was the 121st such seizure in the state, with over 3,000 fake vaccination cards recovered in Memphis alone since the start of 2021.

Seized Fake COVID Vaccination Cards
(Main and top right) Fake vaccination cards seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Pittsburgh. (Bottom right) Fake cards from a package seized by officers in Memphis. U.S. Customs and Border Protection