Charlotte area residents have reported a recent rise in COVID-19 vaccination card-based scams, even as state Attorney General Josh Stein attempts to combat the online sale of fraudulent cards.
Tom Bartholomy, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina, said he received the first report from a Charlotte-area resident that someone used a selfie they posted of their vaccine card to reproduce the card for sale just last week.
Since then, he’s gotten six more complaints of similar issues.
And Stein, along with 47 other attorneys general, have called on companies like Twitter, eBay and Shopify to remove fraudulent vaccine cards from sales listings on their websites.
Stein is having meetings with all of those companies, he told the Observer this week.
“The fake vaccine cards that are being sold online represent a real problem, because it will delay the ending of the pandemic, then more people will get sick and die,” Stein said.
That’s because people are likely buying the cards to pretend they have gotten the vaccines, without actually getting the COVID-19 vaccines, Stein said.
“My advice to everyone is: You can get these cards for free,” Stein said. “You don’t have to pay for them when you get your free vaccine. Go ahead and get your vaccine, and that way we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror even quicker.”
Some people may be posting pictures of their vaccine cards online without realizing they’re sharing personal information online, Bartholomy said.
He warned North Carolinians not to post vaccine card selfies, to guard against a possible “gateway to identify theft.”
Vaccine hesitancy concerns in NC
A rise in fake vaccine cards also could be indicative of rising vaccine hesitancy among people still unvaccinated. Local health experts are worried that such hesitancy could lead to a slowdown in the state’s vaccination rate.
Vaccine supply has finally begun to outpace demand locally after more than four months.
And nearly all of Charlotte’s biggest vaccine suppliers, including Novant Health, Atrium Health and Mecklenburg County Public Health, began accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 shots for the first time this month.
Experts want to make it as easy as possible to get the vaccine, Novant Health infectious disease expert Dr. David Priest told reporters Tuesday.
The slowdown in vaccine demand is “super concerning,” Priest said.
More than one-third of Mecklenburg County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines as of Wednesday, according to state Department of Health and Human Services data.
But that’s a long way off from herd immunity — when a large majority of the area has been vaccinated.
“We don’t want to plateau at 35, 40, 45% of individuals vaccinated,” Priest said.