I don’t know about you all, but I’ve seen quite a few photos of friends’ vaccination cards on my social media feeds. I can’t exactly tell you how many—because frankly, I forgot—but I can tell you that every time I saw one it generated a mixed reaction. On one hand, I was thrilled that my friends that were posting, many of which are health care workers or educators, got a vaccine. Another part of me felt uneasy, though. Posting a photo with personal and vaccine information just seemed like a bad idea.
Apparently, the Federal Trade Commission shares my unease. In a blog on the subject posted on Friday, the agency sternly stated that social media is no place to share your covid-19 vaccination cards. It gently chastised people that were celebrating their second covid-19 dose—the current vaccines approved in the U.S. require two shots—with “the giddy enthusiasm that’s usually reserved for weddings, new babies, and other life events.”
I totally think that people have the right to be happy they got the vaccine. This pandemic has been terrible and devastating. And truly, if you’ve already gotten the vaccine, I am very happy for you and hope you feel a bit more at ease. However, a celebratory picture is not worth the problems it could generate down the road.
“Please—don’t do that! You could be inviting identity theft,” wrote the FTC’s Seena Gressin, an attorney with the agency’s division of consumer and business education.
As explained by the agency, the covid-19 vaccination card has important bits of information about you, such as your full name, date of birth, the place you got your vaccine, and when you got it. Posting this to social media is like willingly giving bad actors something they’re looking for.
Gressin compared identity theft to a puzzle, which is made of up of pieces of your personal information. You don’t want to give identity thieves what they need to finish your puzzle, she said.
“One of those pieces is your date of birth,” Gressin said. “For example, just by knowing your date and place of birth, scammers sometimes can guess most of the digits of your Social Security number. Once identity thieves have the pieces they need, they can use the information to open new accounts in your name, claim your tax refund for themselves, and engage in other identity theft.”
Another concern, as noted by the New York Times, is that the vaccine cards could be forged by people who haven’t gotten a vaccine or who do not have plans to get one in order to gain access to jobs, restaurants, or events. A December report in the UK outlet the Sun stated that some people were already selling counterfeit vaccination cards on TikTok.
Even worse, the Times states that scammers might even use the information to con people into paying for the second dose of their vaccine or any future booster shots. In the U.S., vaccines purchased by the government are given free of charge, although the vaccination provider is allowed to charge an administrative fee for giving someone the shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The list of possible downfalls over an innocent photo can go on and on.
This doesn’t mean that government officials and experts are saying that you can’t post any pictures about this important moment on social media. However, they have a suggestion: Take a picture of the vaccine stickers given out at some sites. Or of the bandage on your arm from the injection. Per the FTC, the latter gives you the opportunity to “show off your tattoos and deltoids at the same time.”
I personally like the sticker. And hey, we already have experience rocking selfies with “I Vote” stickers. Doing it with the “I got my Covid-19 vaccine!” stickers will be a walk in the park.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.