JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you go on the Internet — you can find just about anything, legal and illegal.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, some people are trying to lie about having been vaccinated, or whether or not they have the virus.
The News4Jax I-TEAM is exposing locals trying to buy and sell fake COVID-19 paperwork, including positive and negative test results and vaccine cards. One local site has more than a dozen posts.
News4Jax found that a popular Facebook group with more than 22,000 followers had multiple posts from members trying to buy and sell counterfeit COVID-19 related documents.
“Who needs a covid fake,” one post said. Another said, “who can make me a negative covid test for a flight.”
People are offering to fake negative and positive test results for people who want to use the paperwork to travel, go to work, or get out of work. Long story short — you can buy a lie.
I-TEAM Investigator Vic Micolucci reached out to health experts and the FBI.
Tawanda Washington, a registered nurse with the Florida Department of Health, said she found it disturbing.
“For those that are positive and they’re saying that they’re negative, they are putting the entire community at risk,” Washington said.
And it’s more than a health hazard — it’s a crime. (Below is an example of a FAKE positive result)
The I-TEAM discovered an Atlanta man pleaded guilty to turning in a fake COVID-19 medical excuse letter to his employer claiming he was infected. It caused his company to temporarily close down and cost them roughly $100,000. He faces three years in prison and nearly $200,000 in fines.
Former FBI agent Toni Chrabot, who now runs Risk Confidence Group, said forging these documents is dangerous for everyone. It’s another reason why people with legitimate test results or vaccine cards need to protect them.
“This is fraud ... you’re fraudulently using the federal seal and you’re putting a lot of people at risk by doing this,” Chrabot said. “Certainly everyone should protect their vaccine records and personal information as closely as they can. Certainly don’t put it on social media.”
FBI agents said if you want to stay out of trouble, don’t buy fake vaccination cards, don’t make them, and don’t try to fill them out with false information.
See something? Say something. To report suspicious activity involving fake vaccination record cards, contact the appropriate government agency in your state or jurisdiction, HHS-OIG (1-800-HHS-TIPS or www.oig.hhs.gov); or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).
Do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information. By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal (such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) is a crime, and may be punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws.