After you have your COVID-19 vaccine, you get a CDC vaccination card that tells you what vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where or from which healthcare professional you received it. It will also contain your full name, date of birth, vaccine lot and location, and your patient number -- your medical record or IIS (Immunization Identification Systems) number. The card is updated when you get a second vaccination.
While you should keep your vaccination card safe and secure for future use (for example, you may need to use it as a pass to gain entry to a venue requiring proof of vaccination), and the CDC also suggests taking a picture of your vaccination card to have as a backup copy, you should not post a picture of the card online, including on Facebook or any other social media.
These cards contain sensitive information that, if publicized on the internet, could make you vulnerable to scams and identity theft. Scammers use bits and pieces of information gathered from our “footprints” online, including our photos, to build profiles about us which they use for fraudulent purposes including social engineering.
Identity thieves can use details about you contained on your vaccination card, like your medical record number, to access your medical records over the phone. They can use your name and birthdate to contact your healthcare providers to access your prescriptions, medical history, appointments, procedures, etc., all the while posing as you.
They can also use information about the vaccine you received and the location of the vaccine facility to send you fraudulent “spoof” emails regarding your vaccination that appear to come from the facility. The emails urge you to click on links about, for example, rescheduling your appointment time and request personal info to that end, but the emails are in actuality a ploy to get you to send your information to scammers.
Scammers can also create fake vaccination cards to sell online by using the information on your card. People who want to show proof they were vaccinated but don’t want to get the vaccination have created a market for these counterfeit cards.
Fraudsters can also add the information on your vaccination card to existing info they have about you to open credit cards in your name, file for a tax refund in your name, or commit any other type of identity theft your information will allow them to perpetrate.
The pandemic has given rise to a variety of scams taking advantage of anxieties and fears about COVID and misinformation surrounding the safety of the vaccine. Posting cards online can increase your vulnerability to identity theft scams.
The information contained in this column is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPP/E