By Mekialaya White

DENVER (CBS4) – As more places require proof of vaccination, cybersecurity experts are seeing an alarming national and international trend: record numbers of hackers offering fake vaccine certificates impersonating the CDC on the dark web.

(credit: iStock/Getty Images)

“We have an entire market of people who do not want to take the vaccine, but they also don’t want to be blocked from doing the things that you can do once you’re vaccinated,” cybersecurity expert Maya Levine told CBS4’s Mekialaya White.

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Levine says the number of sellers using Telegram, a messenger app, advertising fake vaccination cards to those who do not want to take the vaccine have spiked 257% since March 2021. The paperwork isn’t too pricey to obtain, either.

“The average cost right now is between $100-120 for a fake vaccine certificate, which is not that much money if you’re very adamant on not being vaccinated,” said Levine.

Some Denver restaurants are taking a stand against people resisting the vaccine. For Bonanno restaurants, all staff must be vaccinated and guests will be asked to sign a health declaration with vaccine status by the end of next month, or else.

“We’ll just ask them to dine somewhere else, that’s going to be our policy, after September 30,” explained Jessica Kinney, Bonanno’s Director of People.

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Levine believes the spike in fake vaccine card purchases ties into a larger trend.

“Misinformation that is spreading across the internet,” she said. “These people who don’t want to get vaccinated, most believe that the vaccine will cause them harm. They are more scared of the vaccine than they are of potentially contracting COVID.”

Levine says there’s a simpler solution than purchasing the cards, which is against federal law.

“I think you should just get vaccinated instead of going through all this effort to fake vaccination,” said Levine.

To report suspicious activity involving fake vaccination record cards, please contact the appropriate government agency in your state or jurisdiction, 1-800-HHS-TIPS or www.oig.hhs.gov); or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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Mekialaya White