The liberating, euphoric feeling of receiving your COVID-19 vaccine might be as thrilling as getting, say, that first driver’s license.
It’s one of those first-steps, a milestone, on the road to being able to live life just a bit more freely. And many want to share this small victory on social media.
But taking a selfie of you holding your vaccination card is a real no-no, according to consumer watchdogs.
We’re seeing those selfies
While some of these scam warnings have been out for a while, I’m still seeing friends posting photos of their vaccine cards on Facebook. And I fear that we’re going to see even more of these photos, as Michigan opens up vaccination efforts to anyone 50 and older as of March 22.
Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled when a friend, a relative or someone’s mom or dad is able to schedule and receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Just maybe post a shot of your arm or the sticker you got after receiving the vaccine.
I’m not from the anti-selfie school — and there is one — that says you’re boasting at a time when many people aren’t as fortunate in the vaccine lottery as you’ve been.
Some in their 60s, 70s and 80s still find it terribly difficult to get scheduled for a vaccine. Many young parents are expecting that they’re near the end of the line for these vaccines, given the jobs they do and the year that they were born.
Your happy moment, like so many on Facebook, only reminds others of what they’re lacking in life.
Personally, I’ve opted to look at the pandemic as a public health crisis, with an emphasis the devastation that COVID-19 has caused in many homes and communities. Many people, taking those extra steps to get those shots, could help save someone else’s life.
Why do scammers look at vaccine cards?
No matter where you stand, though, you never want to give a leg up to a scammer.
Fortunately, the vaccine card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t contain any information as troubling as your Social Security number.
From what I’ve seen online, though, I now know the exact birth date and year for some of my friends, the type of vaccine that they received, their full name, and sometimes, depending on how they hold that card, exactly where they received the shots.
Granted, a good deal of our personal information is already out there somewhere after a variety of hacking incidents. And we’ve already posted plenty about ourselves on social media, too. Plenty of people already list their birthday, if not the exact year, on Facebook.
But why give scammers easy access to any data?
“While it may not seem like a lot of information, all a sophisticated scammer needs is a little bit of information about you, they then do their own research to fill in the blanks,” said Laura Blankenship, director of marketing for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan & the Upper Peninsula.
Crooks could use this information, perhaps along with other readily available information, to open a credit card or take out a loan, hack into your personal accounts or maybe even file a phony income tax return to trigger a generous refund.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who issued a warning about sharing photos of COVID-19 vaccine cards via social media, noted that information on the cards can help scammers hack online accounts or commit identity fraud.
In general, Blankenship noted, a variety of personal documents should never be shared on social media, including a paycheck, birth certificate, medical records, a driver’s license and yes, a vaccine card.
The Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to avoid posting photos of their COVID-19 vaccine cards on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
“Unfortunately, your card has your full name and birthday on it, as well as information about where you got your vaccine,” the BBB warns.
“If your social media privacy settings aren’t set high, you may be giving valuable information away for anyone to use.”
And there is a concern that somehow crooks will engineer a way to sell fake vaccination cards in the United States. The BBB said: “Posting photos of your card can help provide scammers with information they can use to create and sell phony ones.”
Scammers in Great Britain, according to an earlier BBB alert, have already been caught selling fake vaccination cards on eBay and TikTok.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel stated in a consumer alert that some of the confusion and misinformation relating to the COVID-19 vaccines can give scammers an edge.
“Scammers will try to capitalize on these circumstances and take advantage of people by using a variety of tactics,” Nessel said in a statement.
“We must all remain watchful and aware of their tricks.”
Some see vaccine scams where there are none
People shouldn’t panic if they’ve already posted such photos. It is possible to take down or delete a photo. And again, some of this information is already out there.
“It’s just like anything else. It’s a piece of a puzzle for a criminal,” said Amy Nofziger, director of victim support for the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Nofziger said the fraud network does get calls from consumers about the vaccine but many times consumers think a legitimate effort to schedule a vaccine might be a scam.
The vaccination registration process often does involve receiving emails or texts, picking up the phone for a strange number and scheduling an appointment, she said. Many times, you’re going to a specific site, such as the county health department, to register online and give your cell phone number.
“We really want people to stay alert,” Nofziger said, “but we don’t want people to be so fearful that they’re not getting the vaccine.”
The pandemic — and now the vaccination effort — have opened the door for a variety of different scams. Some may try to sell vaccines directly to you for a few hundred dollars; others are asking for gift cards or cash to schedule an appointment for you. All scams.
Nofziger said one consumer met someone via an online dating site who seemed to be a promising love interest — and then one person raised a huge red flag.
If you pay me, a romantic prospect told the other, I can help you get the vaccine and then we’ll be safe enough to go on a date.