Government and law enforcement authorities are urged to step up anti-counterfeiting measures following “disturbing” reports about a surge in fake COVID [vaccine] cards.

In April of this year, 45 US attorney generals called on social media and tech companies to crack down on fraudulent vaccination cards known to be circulating online. In a letter to the CEOs of Twitter, Shopify and eBay, officials asked that companies take action to prevent the sales of fake vaccine cards on their platforms.  ‘It has come to our attention that your platforms are being used to market and sell blank or fraudulently completed COVID vaccine cards bearing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo,’ the letter said.

Despite these efforts, news reports continue to indicate that the online trade in fake documents is booming so the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) is, today [21 October 2021], calling for global supply chains and authorities to immediately review their anti-counterfeiting plans and investment in security resources.

According to the IHMA, there already exists an array of authentication and verification technologies, including holograms, that should be deployed immediately to better protect people and document distribution channels.

Thousands of online traders are offering near-perfect copies of COVID vaccination cards at rapidly rising prices, reports US news outlets*, with some selling a single card for hundreds of dollars. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been intercepting thousands of packages of fake cards from China and has admitted that it’s ‘…basically stopped keeping track, because there were so many’.

Indeed, such is the problem, says the trade body, that earlier this year research by a cyber security firm** uncovered an estimated 1,200 vendors around the world offering false documents.

Counterfeiting is a multi-billion-dollar global problem but the surge in fake COVID documents is concerning as criminals continue to take advantage of the situation, said Dr Paul Dunn, chair of the IHMA.

He added: “The use of counterfeit vaccine cards puts people and their friends and families at risk and must be stopped. Supply chains have to be bolstered with countries enhancing their anti-counterfeiting plans, which include the introduction of harder hitting anti-counterfeiting legislation and strategies.

“The use of track and trace programmes featuring security devices are especially helpful in proving the authenticity of Covid documentation and passports. This can be effective, reassuring those in law enforcement and government as well as consumers that documents are genuine, safe and secure.”

The use of well-designed and properly deployed authentication solutions, as advocated by the ISO12931 standard, enables examiners to verify the authenticity of a legitimate product, differentiating it from fake products coming from counterfeiting hot spots like China. Even those that carry a “fake” authentication feature can be distinguished from the genuine item if that item carries a carefully thought-out authentication solution.



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Paul Dunn is chairman of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association. He has been involved in the Optical Security industry for 30 years with an array of experience in teaching and technology development, and is currently Director of Technology Innovation at OpSec Security Ltd.

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