No matter what age you are, almost everyone in this country loves a good selfie. Especially when we’re celebrating a major event or when it’s helping to advance a cause.
Being one of the first to get in line for a COVID-19 vaccination fits both of those bills. Not only is getting your shot the beginning of the end (HOPEFULLY!) of this quarantine nightmare, but as one of the first members of the public to get it, you might want to show your friends and family there’s nothing to fear.
A developing trend among people first in line for the shot is taking a celebratory picture holding their vaccine certification card. I’ve seen this trend firsthand on my own social media timeline.
And because I’ve already seen this dozens of times personally, I’d like to send out this important public service announcement:
DO NOT POST PHOTOS OF YOUR VACCINATION CARD ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
Seriously. Please, please, PLEASE, don’t do this. And if you already have, pull that image down as soon as you possibly can.
Those vaccination cards are an open invitation to would-be scammers who may only need the pieces of your personal information on that card to steal your identity OR who are looking for people who have gotten the first injection to realize their scam.
For example: let’s pretend I’m a scammer and my strategy is to get those who have received their first shot to pay me for access to their second one. Maybe I’ll call those who have received their first shot pretending to be a state healthcare employee to say they’ll have to put down a deposit on their second shot or pay for their place in line.
The best way for me to find potential victims right now is to simply scroll through vaccine hashtags and look for anyone who has posted a photo holding that vaccination card.
Not only does simply posting that photo make it easy for me to find you, but I also have your full legal name, your birth date, and details about what vaccine you got and who administered it.
Those details might not seem that critical to your personal security, but they’re incredibly useful to me.
I can use all those details to convince you over the phone that I’m a healthcare worker with intimate knowledge of your vaccination records. While you’re talking to me on the phone or through email, you might not immediately remember you posted those details publicly where anyone could find them. I’d have just enough correct information about your vaccine experience to look very legitimate to you.
Once I have your trust, it’s easy for me to ask you to give me your financial information to arrange payment for your second injection. I could even ask you for even more critical personal information to “make sure you got the correct shot at the right time.” Then, I could steal your entire identity.
While posting that card may not provide ALL the details someone would need to seriously jeopardize your finances, it does create a very good opportunity for a skilled social engineer.
Social engineering is the most common way scammers slurp information out of victims: it’s a strategy where all someone needs is charisma and a scarily short amount of research to convince you he knows you, he can be trusted, and prod you into giving him the information he wants. These types of scammers flourish on the seemingly innocuous things we post on Facebook and Twitter.
And as for the information that is given on those vaccination cards, you might be surprised to know scammers can use your birth date to figure out MOST of your Social Security number digits if they know where you were born–which they might if you’ve posted where you’re from on your social media profiles or if you were affected by any of the major data breaches of the past several years (most Americans were).
So on top of not posting imagines of that card on social media, you should definitely also consider removing any details related to your birth date and birth location as further protection from all kinds of scammers.
While I haven’t seen any reports of any specific victims of this potential scam, the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau are pre-emptively raising the red flags as this social media trend gains steam:
You finally got your vaccine, and you’re excited to share the proof. Here’s why that may not be a good idea, and what you can do instead.
As seniors in most states are becoming eligible for their first vaccination, I ask you to be very careful with this trend and with your personal information. The COVID scammers have been out there since the very beginning of this pandemic and they’re always looking for new ways to bait victims while this situation is evolving. Since seniors are the first general members of the public to get access to the vaccine, seniors are specifically the ones being targeted at this time.
So keep your personal information close—even if it doesn’t seem all that personal—and try to find much less public ways to celebrate your newly vaccinated status.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s DEFINITELY a reason to celebrate. But I want YOU to be the one celebrating—NOT the person who may have just used your good news to destroy your credit.
Stay safe out there, guys!