How to Spot Phony ‘Vaccine Passport’ Apps That Will Steal Your Data

Bill Mount

Photo: Suwan Banjongpian (Shutterstock) As a matter of policy, the use of vaccine passports remains unclear. There’s no official, federally-recognized “vaccine passport” in the U.S., but companies are already working on passport apps for vaccinated people who want to travel or attend large events. Subsequently, the nebulous state of vaccine […]

Illustration for article titled How to Spot Phony 'Vaccine Passport' Apps That Will Steal Your Data

Photo: Suwan Banjongpian (Shutterstock)

As a matter of policy, the use of vaccine passports remains unclear. There’s no official, federally-recognized “vaccine passport” in the U.S., but companies are already working on passport apps for vaccinated people who want to travel or attend large events. Subsequently, the nebulous state of vaccine passports is an opportunity for scammers to steal your personal information, which is why the Better Business Bureau has issued an alert about phony apps.

What to look out for

There are some legitimate apps that are already in use. New York State launched the Excelsior Pass, which uses the state’s vaccine registry to confirm vaccination status, and airlines like American Airlines and JetBlue use apps to confirm negative COVID tests for flights, too.

However, since the White House has rejected the use of vaccine passports, we probably won’t see a single, centralized app that will be used by all Americans. Instead, we’ll likely see a growing patchwork of apps created by private companies for use at the local or state level. But this will also make it harder to spot fake apps run by scammers, too, which is why you should be extra careful with your personal information and verify whether the app is legit.

With that in mind, the Better Business Bureau has these tips:

  • Be skeptical of any vaccine passport app that claims to be from the U.S. federal government. Right now, the U.S. federal government has no plans to create a national vaccine passport. Email, calls, text messages that claim the government is requiring such a passport are likely scams.
  • Flying or attending an event? Check with the company directly. You may need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccine to attend an event or board a flight. As with all things related to COVID-19, policies are frequently changing. Be sure to check with your airline, sports team, event venue etc. beforehand to get the latest details.
  • Research carefully. If you receive an invitation to download a COVID-19 vaccine passport app, be sure to do your research before entering your personal information. Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good–or crazy–to be true. Double check any information against official news sources and company websites.
  • Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan information, or banking information to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t post your vaccine card on social media.
  • Think the link may be real? Double check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URL domains to use in their cons. Be careful to ensure that the link destination is really what it claims to be. If the message claims to be from the government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website or call the source directly.

If you’ve spotted a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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