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Are businesses catching those using falsified vaccine cards in Cleveland?

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 2:16 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - From masks to full vaccination, many businesses and artists are rolling out new requirements.

But how safe are the mandates really keeping you?

Monday, Jen Picciano talked to several music venues about how they plan to verify their attendees are vaccinated.

“We’re going to have to trust people quite a bit,” the co-owner of the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern Stage, Cindy Barber said.

Monday night, Jen Picciano showed us why Northeast Ohio venues are exploring an app to prove vaccination status....

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Tuesday, September 7, 2021

So, how certain can you be that those around you showed a real vaccine card to get in?

And, what are the consequences for people try to fake their vaccination status?

Unlike a drivers license, you can’t scan vaccine cards.

There’s no barcode or anything that would allow someone to quickly verify it’s the real deal.

19 investigates printed a copy of a blank vaccine card that we quickly and easily found online.

We then copied over the true and accurate information from Investigator Hannah Catlett’s real vaccine card from the pharmacy.

We have no intention of trying to deceive anyone by trying to pass the copy off as an original document, but we did go out and see if people could tell the difference between it and the real one.

“I couldn’t even tell you to be honest,” one man said.

Only after examining them closely, side by side, were people willing to even take a guess.

We told people about the process we took to make the copy, and explained it took about an hour.

Can you imagine if someone had all day and really wanted to get it looking exact?

Jim Reardon chose to be vaccinated and Candace Price did not.

However, after our conversation both question whether it really makes a difference if businesses and venues require proof of vaccination to get in.

“I’m not sure, especially if people can make them up themselves,” Price said.

Reardon said, “They couldn’t detect if the one you made was a phony. I don’t think they could.”

So what if someone created a fake card and tried to use it for real? What’s the punishment if you get caught?

The FBI’s put out warnings against using fake vaccination cards for months.

19 Investigates learned that it’s the Department of Health and Human Services that’s in charge of investigating potential violations though.

HHS says a missing logo, misspelled words and a missing lot number are really the only indicators a card may be fake.

The agency along with the DOJ is currently going after two people accused of distributing fake cards-- a California health care provider and a Chicago-based pharmacist.

As far as those actually using the fake cards, last month we saw a couple and more recently a woman who misspelled Moderna, arrested and fined for violating Hawaii’s “Safe Travel Program. The Governor tweeted that at least in his state, “falsifying a vaccination card could carry a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.”

The feds, however, did not point us to any other cases they’re working against those accused of trying to pass off a fake card as their own.

HHS says those who suspect fraud though should submit a tip on the agency’s website or call the agency’s tip line, 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

The question is, would a busy doorman take the time to make that report against a concert goer, while potentially denying entrance to someone who may or may not be a true card holder?

We asked Blossom Music Center if anyone has been turned away or suspected of used a fake card to get into one of its concerts in the last few weeks.

Neither the venue nor its partners at Live Nation give us a reply.

The FBI issued advice to businesses recently saying, “Because individuals may use fake vaccine cards to misrepresent themselves as vaccinated, we strongly encourage businesses, schools, places of worship, and government agencies to follow CDC guidance when it comes to distancing, masking, and vaccinations.”

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