A fake COVID-19 vaccination card a Stamford, Conn. resident said he received along with the passport holder he ordered off of Amazon.
A North Stamford man recently placed an order through Amazon for a case to hold his passport and COVID-19 vaccination card.
But when the case arrived, he found the packaging contained something he didn’t order — a copy of a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. The small card with the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was blank and an obvious fake.
“It is even a little bigger than the real card,” the man, whose name was not released by officials, told Attorney General William Tong’s office.
A spokesperson for Amazon said the company does “not allow the products in question in our store.”
“We have proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed and we continuously monitor our store and take swift action on bad actors that attempt to evade our systems,” the statement said.
Officials say the incident highlights the pitfalls around paper COVID-19 vaccination records, which can be damaged, destroyed or lost, and in some cases, have been reported stolen among other items in Connecticut.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s office has rolled out a digital vaccine card that allows users to save a record of their COVID-19 vaccinations in their phone. The tool also offers users a QR code that can be scanned at locations requiring proof of vaccination. Lamont’s office also noted the system makes forging the cards more difficult.
“This digital vaccination card does one thing — it provides Connecticut residents with an alternative option to the paper card that they received when they were vaccinated,” Lamont said in a statement Monday. “If you don’t want to carry your paper card around with you in your pocket, or if you lost your card, then you can digitally load it onto your smartphone.”
While Lamont pushed back against calling the system a vaccine passport, requirements to show proof of vaccination to enter businesses or other venues has become more common throughout the region.
In New York, those who are unable to show proof of vaccination must wear a mask in most indoor venues. New York City already requires adults and children as young as 5 years old to show they have been vaccinated (the requirement varies by age bracket whether people must show they’ve received at least one dose or are fully vaccinated).
Other major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle, either require proof of vaccination at restaurants and other indoor venues, or have announced rules that will go into effect in the coming weeks.
In the case of the Stamford resident who inadvertently received a fake card, the issue came to light when the man reached out to state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, after the card arrived.
“He sent me the listing, which he realized after the fact had included references to the card in the reviews,” Blumenthal said. The lawmaker contacted Tong’s office, which alerted Amazon to have the listing removed.
Amazon later informed Tong’s office that the listing was designed to bypass the online retailer’s detection algorithm, “but due to our outreach, they had removed the listing and flagged the seller,” Blumenthal said.
The man who received the fake card declined to comment through Blumenthal.
In his message to Tong’s office, the man wrote that after he received the card, he noticed reviews mentioning the passport holder came with a fake vaccine card, and questioned why Amazon couldn’t detect mentions of the card in the reviews.
This isn’t the first time a fake vaccination card has turned up in Connecticut. During an April rally at the State Capitol ahead of Connecticut lawmakers’ planned vote on overturning religious exemptions for traditional vaccines in public schools, a box with dozens of fake COVID-19 vaccine cards was left out in the open. The box containing the cards included a handwritten message: “lost your card?” Capitol police later seized them.
Earlier this week, authorities in New York announced a former assistant professor at Westchester Community College had been charged with a felony, after allegedly presenting the school with a copy of a relative’s vaccine card that had been altered with her name and date of birth.
Blumenthal said distributing the cards “isn't just a fraud on the public and a menace to public health — it's a crime,” and asked anyone else who finds similar listings to report them to authorities.
Tong’s office said the cards may violate the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
“Fake vaccination cards are deceptive, dangerous, and unlawful,” Tong said in a statement. “The Office of the Attorney General is in close coordination with our law enforcement partners and stands ready to take strong legal action to protect public health and safety.”
Peter Yankowski is a breaking news reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media. He previously reported for the Danbury News-Times and, before that, the Ridgefield Press.