RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The sale of fake vaccine cards has exploded. Experts say it’s easier than ever to get one of these fraudulent cards. However, if you buy one of those cards, you’re taking more than a health risk.

That’s because you’re dealing with criminals, and they’re not going to stop at taking your money for a fake vaccine card. They are also going to try to steal your identity.

At first, the dark web was the prime supplier of fake vaccine cards, but it’s hard to access that unless you have special tools.

Now things have changed.

According to the security firm Check Point Research, fake card sellers have migrated from the dark web to an easily accessible social media platform known as Telegram, which already has hundreds of millions of users. 

“These sellers are blatantly and brazenly advertising these fake vaccine cards on the public internet,” said Check Point’s Brian Linder. 

Check Point found fake card selling exploded on Telegram when President Joe Biden announced his employer vaccine mandate.

The app has groups where people can meet to chat about buying and selling things like vaccination cards.

“We saw a 10-times jump in sellers and a 5-times jump in the number of people that congregate in these groups,” Linder said. “On average, about 85,000 people per group, which is quite disturbing.”

Check Point said its research shows sellers vary from large organized criminal groups all the way down to single entrepreneurs who are trying to cash in.

They’re all demanding payment in cryptocurrency because it’s difficult to trace.

Be warned — buying a fake vaccine card is more than a health risk. Linder said you are opening up yourself to identity theft.

“What you’ve done is surrender some or all of your personal information to them,” he said. “They’ll take that data and resell it again for their own profit, and you don’t know where that data will end up.”

Because Telegram is a chat platform and not an e-commerce site, there is no way for officials to regulate the sale of fake cards. The only way to do that is if Telegram itself tried to somehow control users, but that gets into free speech.

“Maybe they could do something, but to my knowledge, they are not,” Linder said. “It would be very difficult for them to do that.”

Researchers believe as the number of vaccine mandates by both government and industry increases, the demand for fake vaccine cards will continue to skyrocket.

With no good digital vaccine verification system on the horizon, we’re going to have to rely on cards.

Before you buy a fake card, think twice about the health as well as personal financial implications it carries for you.