U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPOs) in Tennessee have seized thousands of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards en route to Louisiana from China, according to a statement from the agency.

Most recently, CBPOs working at a port in Memphis spotted a shipment labeled “PAPER CARD, PAPER” and “already knew what it was,” the agency said. The packages — of which there were at least 15 that night — were en route to New Orleans, Louisiana from Shenzhen, China and carried “51 low quality, counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards.”

While the cards slightly resembled legitimate vaccination cards – in the sense that they donned the Center for Disease Control (CDC) logo in the upper right corner and appropriate blank spaces for the recipient’s’ name, birthdate, vaccine makers, lot number and date and place of shot receipt – the cards contain multiple typos, unfinished words, inaccurate spelling of Spanish words and more.

The cards were also clearly fraudulent as they were imported by a non-CDC or medical entity, and this wasn’t the first time they’d seen similar containers from this exporter. The shipments, which always come from China, are customarily disguised as various paper goods like greeting cards. What’s puzzling, however, is that the senders make no further attempt to conceal the cards: they’re not hidden in books, artwork or camouflaged in the slightest, while most illegally imported substances very much are.

As of August 13, border protection at the Memphis port has confiscated more than 3,000 fake cards from 121 packages. The intended recipients of the contraband have been all over the country.

Buying, selling or using a counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination card is a crime categorised as “the unauthorised use of an official agency,” according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and therefore punishable by up to five years in prison.

“These vaccinations are free and available everywhere,” Michael Neipert, Area Port Director of Memphis, said. “If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officer’s time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself.”

“CBP Officers at the Area Port of Memphis remain committed to stopping counterfeit smuggling and helping to protect our communities,” Neiper continued. “But just know that when you order a fake vaxx card, you are using my officers time as they also seize fentanyl and methamphetamines.”

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