So you finally got a Covid-19 vaccine. It's easy to take a photo of your vaccination card with your name and date of birth and the vaccine you had and post it on social media.
However, some experts warn that the information in the celebration photo could leave you at risk of identity theft or fraud.
"Unfortunately, your card has your full name and birthday and information about where you got your vaccine from," the Better Business Bureau said last week. "If your social media privacy settings are not set high, you may be sharing valuable information that anyone can use."
On Friday, the Federal Trade Commission followed suit: "You post a photo of your vaccination card on social media. Please – don't do that!" It warned bluntly. "You could invite identity theft."
Fraudsters can sometimes find out most of the digits of your Social Security number by knowing your date and place of birth. You can open new accounts on your behalf, claim your tax refund for yourself, and get involved in other identity thefts, said Maneesha Mithal, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission's privacy and identity department.
"Identity theft is like a puzzle made up of personal information," Ms. Mithal said. "You don't want to give identity thieves the pieces they need to complete the picture. One of those pieces is your date of birth."
But even if experts warn against giving your card away, chances are the information you are giving up has already been made available in other ways if you recorded your birthday elsewhere online – which most people likely have.
Avivah Litan, a senior analyst at research firm Gartner, said many Americans are vulnerable to multiple data breaches.
"Basically, the criminals already have pretty much every last name, first name and date of birth," said Ms. Litan. “There have been so many hacks in the last 10 years. If you're just looking for my name and birthday, you've got it. "
How a scammer works
Scammers and identity thieves often gradually collect information and clean up social media posts to create a file on a person's life, including education, employment, and vacation spots. When you post a date of birth, you will receive one of your most important personal treats.
While a name and date of birth are not all an identity thief would need in most cases to steal your identity, it makes it easier to reveal those details.
"Scammers are looking for personal identification information they can get from you – any kind of information to create a profile," said Curtis W. Dukes, executive vice president of the Center for Internet Security.
A scam could exploit fear of vaccine shortages or a slow distribution process by disguising himself as a government official claiming to need a credit card number to reserve a different dose or a booster, Dukes said.
In such a "charged" atmosphere of bottlenecks, people "could fall for it and give up their credit cards or other information," he said.
Ms. Litan said, “At least it will give bad actors a go-ahead to know who has been vaccinated. So you can use it for fraud purposes, to socially construct me and pay them for a booster shot I'll never get, or for valid commercial purposes that bypass normal U.S. regulatory structures. "
A new milestone to celebrate
Luscious teenagers post pictures of their driver's licenses or study permits. Vacationers publish photos of their trips.
The vaccination cards are now another way to "share these milestones in our lives," said Nita A. Farahany, professor of law and philosophy at Duke University School of Law.
However, she said one concern is that if the vaccinated status functions as a commodity that gives people access to jobs, restaurants or events, the cards could be forged or replicated.
Someone who has not yet been vaccinated or does not wish to be vaccinated might "be tempted to forge a copy of these photos," she said. "Or why wouldn't a corporate scammer use the photos to create fakes to be sold to those who want them?"
The Better Business Bureau in its warning cited newspaper reports in the UK that counterfeit vaccination cards were bought on eBay for around $ 6.
When responding to the reports, eBay said in an emailed statement that it blocked and removed items that made false health claims.
Building blocks for an identity
A published vaccination card could also be the springboard for sophisticated social engineering or phishing ideas. Such programs were common during the pandemic.
Stacey Wood, a professor of psychology at Scripps College who has advised older adults who are victims of fraud, cited what is known as grandparent fraud, in which a person posing as a law enforcement officer contacted an older adult and offered details about their grandchild to give them away know and say they were in trouble and needed financial help.
"The typical consumer wouldn't believe that scammers curated information about my life and used it to target me," she said. "There's so much going on in my practice right now and it's just going to be a new thing."
Cassie Christensen, a consultant at SecZetta who works with organizations to manage identity risk, said people who had their vaccination card issued could open themselves to a scammer posing as an officer trying to verify their identity in order to get them across inform medical concerns example, suspected new side effects.
The fraud may include requests for more information to help them gain access to someone's accounts, such as: B. a mother's maiden name or an address.
"You can also go to LinkedIn and find out where you work," she said. "You can call these organizations and do a legitimate password reset."
The pandemic and its fears would have created the perfect environment for it.
"It's all very emotional stuff," she said. "This is what hackers and phishers are looking for."
Instead, use a sticker to brag about
With the distribution of vaccines unevenly, the maps have become a boastful point. Some use it on their dating profiles. Others are just excited to post good news after such a bad year.
"Some post it to say, 'Look, I got it," said Duke's Dr. Farahany.
But what if there was another way of saying that? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe it is. As part of his campaign to build confidence in the vaccines, sticker templates were designed and many states, including Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, New York, and Maryland, are distributing versions.
Public health officials are banking on the widespread use of stickers to impact people who may be fearful, indifferent to, or just plain against vaccines. The stickers could contribute to so-called “social cascades” of behavior, similar to the way the “I voted” stickers promote voting, experts say.
"It helps encourage similar behavior in other people who may be watching," said Dr. Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "It's really about telling others," This is completely normal and that's what people do. "
The same behavior occurs when masks are used frequently, which makes more people feel less out of place when wearing one. "We call this 'social proof,'" said Dr. Wood. "How" I have done my patriotic duty, I have done my civic duty. "
Stickers also don't reveal personal information, another reason officials promote their use.
In Georgia, Attorney General Chris Carr urged people to issue vaccination stickers, saying he couldn't stop them enough from posting their vaccination cards on social media because of the dangers of identity theft.
Plus, "the stickers are really cool," the F.T.C. said on Friday.