COVID-19 Vaccine Passport

Bogus Vaccine Passports Create Headaches and Fines

While Canadians may debate the merits of face masks or limits to social gatherings, we all want the coronavirus to go away. The sooner, the better. So, it was predictable that national and provincial health experts might start to require vaccination proof for travel, restaurants and group events. However, the knowledge that some folks might try to bend the system to their personal beliefs was also evident.

Since the first vaccine doses arrived, provincial officials have expected the arrival of fake documents. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to catch a few. In August, officials detained two Canadian citizens traveling from the United States to Toronto for attempting to use fake cards and falsified COVID-19 test results. Each was fined $20,000 for the offense. That’s some serious money.

How Fakes Crop Up

Fake records started to emerge just days after the first vaccine doses arrived in the country. According to several journalists who purchased them, vaccine passports offered online displayed images that mirrored the real thing. In some posts, price tags reached $200 per card. Sellers further promised they would enter the fake data into the buyer’s provincial database, but that claim remains a challenge to confirm.

Sales of false cards have been advertised all over the dark web, a hard-to-locate corner of the internet where hackers and data thieves peddle their wares. Professional security researchers—they’re the good guys—also scan these web addresses. They’re trying to spot the latest scams in circulation.

South of the border, U.S. Customs and Border officials have seized thousands of counterfeit blanks—most originating in China. In one American city, officials report they have confiscated shipments of counterfeits nightly. That translates into 121 shipments seized in the city of Memphis, Tennessee alone in just a few months.

Even law enforcement officials have dabbled in this game. In September, three state troopers in Vermont, USA, resigned after a fellow officer told supervisors the three were dealing in falsified vaccine cards.

Privacy vs Public Health

Increasingly, public events require a vaccine passport for admission. This shift has created a tug of war between patient privacy and public safety benefits, according to Canadian privacy advocates.

“While this may offer substantial public benefit, it is an encroachment on civil liberties that should be taken only after careful consideration,” federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and the ombuds of Manitoba and New Brunswick said in a joint statement issued back in May.

Public safety won this battle, it seems. Passports are now mandatory in multiple settings. Yet, concerns about private health data continue.

When it comes to protecting private health data, the owners of information are often the worst offenders. For example, once individuals started receiving vaccines, they began posting photos of their shot records online. Such sharing carries a credible risk, however.

Each card displays details on which vaccine you received, the batch number and the date of each shot. How would you react if an email arrived, or you received a phone call indicating that Batch #24895 had been contaminated or turned out to be expired? Wouldn’t you contact the medical facility immediately or provide personal data on the phone? If that’s your batch number—probably scraped off your internet photos—you might bite the hook for this phishing scheme. A cascade of negative consequences could follow a photo share, so think twice before you upload.

Shield Yourself

If you’re contemplating a holiday trip to a warmer climate, understand the vaccine documents required for the country you’ll visit, plus what’s needed to return to Canada. Document verification methods will probably improve before you leave. As border officials detect more imitation papers, anyone buying these cards should know they’re liable for up to $100,000 in fines and a year in prison if caught.

If you observe or experience a vaccine passport scheme, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online.

The federal government provides regularly updated rules for international travel online. Check for changes regularly as the status of vaccine proof continues to evolve.

Monitoring your health data—especially your Care Card number—is vital but challenging. That’s one reason why IDShield Canada monitors the details of our members. Don’t know where to begin? Our expert staff can consult with members to craft a comprehensive plan tailored to meet their specific needs. Of course, we monitor all your critical data 24/7 on the dark web, too.

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