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Can Restaurants And Other Businesses Confiscate Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards? Officials Advise Against It

CHICAGO (CBS) -- While checking COVID-19 vaccine cards, a restaurant employee told a CBS 2 staffer they've confiscated about 20 cards they believed to be fake while enforcing the city mandate.

It got us thinking - how are they checking, and are private businesses that are charged with enforcing the city's rules allowed to take away those cards?

CBS 2's Tara Molina, who has tracked this from the beginning, went right to the top with those questions.

It's a tough spot to be in for Chicago businesses, since there is no city technology in place to verify vaccination. So what should a business do if they believe a card is fake? For the first time city leaders are answering that question.

"I would not really encourage businesses to be confiscating, per se, because then it becomes their responsibility," said Chicago department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. "If they are seeing something of concern, we would like them to report that."

Arwady said businesses should report fake vaccination cards directly to the city or the federal government.

"A lot of it is federal, and they have done some crack downs of some of these," Arwady said.

The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is responsible for enforcing the mandate. We sent the department a number of questions on this early Wednesday - what are *they telling business owners?

In a statement, BACP said "The City encourages businesses to report issues of concerns if they spot fake vaccination cards. Anyone with information regarding the fraudulent creation or sale of COVID-19 vaccination cards can file a report by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to"

"Unvaccinated individuals who purchase or create fake vaccination cards put themselves, their loved ones, and fellow Chicagoans at higher risk of COVID-19. The creation, purchase, or sale of vaccine cards by individuals is illegal and endangers public safety," a BACP spokesperson added in an email.

When it comes to city enforcement, we learned 24 businesses are on the city's list – which was last updated Tuesday. All 24 failed to enforce the city's vaccine requirement, put in place early this month.

A total of 48 total citations have been written by city inspectors.

A couple of those businesses are fast food restaurants - the McDonald's on Chicago Avenue off State Street, and the Halal Guys on Division Street off Dearborn Street.

A city spokesperson told us all restaurants are expected to be checking for proof of vaccination for customers eating inside. The most recent cited was the River North location of the restaurant Etta, 700 N. Clark St.

None of those businesses responded to our requests for comment.

Molina followed up with the State of Illinois on this issue. A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health said businesses should not be confiscating cards they believe are fake - instead, they should just deny entry:

"Because there are fraudsters offering and using illegitimate COVID-19 vaccination cards, IDPH recommends using the Illinois Immunization Portal, Vax Verify, to download the SMART Health Card to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Ultimately, it is up to the business, organization, or event to determine what verification method they will use and what they will accept. However, businesses should not be confiscating COVID-19 vaccination cards. If an employee believes a vaccination card is fake, they have the option to deny the individual entrance.

"To report suspicious activity involving fake CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record cards, people can visit Fraud Alert: COVID-19 or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS."

The following is advised for federal reporting: "To report suspicious activity involving fake vaccination record cards, please contact HHS-OIG at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or or the Internet Crime Complaint Center at"

This is a list of businesses cited for violating the vaccine mandate from Monday, Jan. 3, through Monday, Jan. 17:

• Captain Hooks, 1600 W. 13th St.
• Goldfish Swim School of Wicker Park, 1930 W. Hubbard St.
• Hollywood Grill, 1601 W. North Ave.
• Kamehachi, 1531 N. Wells St.
• Kids Empire, 4938 S. Kedzie Ave.
• L & G Restaurant, 2632 E. 75th St.
• La Quebrada #3, Inc., 5100-5102 S. California Ave.
• McDonald's, 10 E. Chicago Ave.
• Outdoor Grill, 3265 N. Milwaukee Ave.
• Reach Fieldhouse, 1601-1603 W. Chicago Ave.
• Snap Fitness, 24/7, 1212 S. Michigan Ave.
• The Halal Guys, 49 W. Division St.
• Vianna Brothers Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, 2128 N. Milwaukee Ave.
• Planet Fitness, 4327-4331 S. Pulaski Rd.
• China Ho Restaurant, 5151 S. Pulaski Rd.
• La Borra Del Cafe Delaware, 10 E. Delaware Pl.
• Moretti's, 6727-6733 N. Olmsted Ave.
• Acanto, 18 S. Michigan Ave.
• Hybrid Martial Arts and Fitness, 3933 N. Elston Ave.
• Foss Swim School, 3026 N. Ashland Ave.
• Indio Cocina Mexicana, 3930 W. 63rd St.
• Chicago Fit Dance Mi Lindo San Jose, 3507 W. Chicago Ave.

BACP also advised they had available "this Toolkit for Businesses & Employers which includes helpful information, such as how to check valid proof of vaccination."

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