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Law Enforcement Starting To Make Progress In Search For Sellers Of Fake Vaccination Cards

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues in New York City must now check for proof of vaccination.

And with the rise of fake vaccination cards, there are some concerns about who is being let in, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported Tuesday.

At Vanguard Wine Bar on the Upper West Side, everyone showed their proof of vaccine to get in.

"This is the first time I've actually had to use it," one person said.

"I haven't been going out too much, so, yeah, this is the first one," another person said.


At Emerald Inn, the kind of place where they know your name, "A lot of our customers are repeat business, so we kind of tend to trust them," owner Charlie Campbell said.

Campbell added even if someone flashed a fake, "It's little white card, so it's kind of hard to tell what's real and what's not."

Many bogus cards being sold look like the real deal, and some sell for as much as $1,500. Meanwhile, the vaccine is free.

Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards
The card on the right is a fake. (Photo: CBS2)

On the encrypted app Telegram, there are currently 2,500 active sellers of fake cards around the world.

"Not only is the number of groups going up, but also the number of followers that are part of that group is also going up. And that's where we see even a larger increase, almost 600%," said Mark Ostrowski of Checkpoint Software.

But the FBI is cracking down. As many as 3,000 fakes from China were seized in Tennessee over the last several months.

"It's about criminal activity that could possibly hurt someone else. You know, you didn't get the shot. You shouldn't be carrying around the card," said FBI Special Agent Siobhan Johnson. "When you use a fake COVID card, you're really putting yourself into areas where you should not be unmasked. People are assuming they're safe, but they may not be."

The unauthorized use of the seal of an official government agency, like the Centers for Disease Control, is a federal crime that could result in a possible fine and up to five years behind bars.


Andrew First of the Upper West Side said he hasn't seen anyone scrutinize his proof too closely.

"They kind of just see that you have like a photo. They're not really staring at it," he said.

But he added he's also not that concerned.

"In this area at least, most people are vaccinated," First said.

At Ashford and Simpson's Sugar Bar, manager Terrell Grisom said he hopes people do the right thing.

"How can you sit down and be comfortable if you feel like everybody around you is spreading COVID?" Grisom said.

Back in April, a bipartisan coalition of 47 state attorneys general, including New York AG Letitia James, sent a letter to CEOs of Twitter, Shopify and eBay to take down ads or links selling the phony cards.

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