As a program coordinator for AARP Vermont and a reporter, I purposely refrain from commentary in my presentations. That is because my work is presented, published and based on the reality of criminals seeking to steal money and identity; fact, not opinion. Given the continued threat of COVID-19, I believe these opinion comments need to be made.

With the availability of vaccinations and the attempt to return to a pre-COVID normal, there is a new danger facing all of us. Many employers and post-secondary education institutions either require or are considering a vaccine requirement. As a senior with compromising conditions, I applaud these actions. We are in a crisis and public safety needs to be given top priority.

Sadly, these mandates do not provide adequate protection. As a fraud fighter and somewhat nerdy computer geek, I fear there is a clear risk posed by the requirements; consumer fraud.

There is a growing presence of fake COVID vaccine cards. College students as well as private-sector and public-sector employees are either buying or manufacturing fake COVID cards. The market is present, the potential profit is great, the risk to the bogus card creator and user is minimal.

The problem lies in the simplicity of the vaccination card itself, using low grade heavy-duty paper or light cardboard and no means of immediate verification; basically, something that is easier to forge than a driver’s license but with which one person can literally put thousands at risk. I mentioned my certified geek status, but even as someone who has limited tech skills, I was able to create a fake COVID card in less than 10 minutes (I’ll refrain from providing the details).

With high demand from employment and schools, a vibrant market exists. It poses a threat to all of us given that many venues will forgo a mask requirement if proof of vaccination is provided. That unmasked person at the ballgame or concert may have gained entry with a fake ID.

There are clear ways to prevent this crime and thereby protect the public from those unwilling to do so themselves. Reissue vaccine cards with major modifications: 1) include photo identification or biometrics such as finger scan; 2) require that the recipient and the administering worker sign the card; 3) provide a publicly accessible database that can be accessed by anyone; 4) establish clear and meaningful penalties for those who endanger public health by making, marketing or using fraudulent COVID vaccination cards.

I can hear the cry from libertarians like Rand Paul about overreaching government and violation of personal freedoms. Sorry, I’m deaf to them. Their personal freedom does not include putting me at risk. So, state legislators and members of Congress, demand a special session and do the right thing.

For the rest of us, demand action to protect all of us from those seeking expediency and privilege without care for the rest of us. Make vaccine cards into items of personal and public protection and safety, not trappings of false security.

Elliott Greenblott of Brattleboro is the coordinator of AARP Vermont Fraud Watch.

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