What's wrong with honest forgery

Freedom for a fox : Forgery of vaccination passports can hardly be prevented

The yellow document is the little book on freedom - at least for those who are already fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Because since Sunday, other rules apply to vaccinated and convalescent people, contact restrictions and curfews no longer apply to them. However, they must be able to prove their status.

[More on the subject: The way to the vaccination appointment in Berlin - I would like to be vaccinated. What can I do? (T +)].

This is a problem, because the yellow vaccination card, in which the vaccinations have been entered up to now, can easily be forged. A secure and completely digital solution is not in sight - politicians have acted too slowly for that.

Where are false vaccination records in circulation?

At Telegram, freedom seems very close. At least the ones you can get back with a vaccination. For as little as 50 euros, private users offer fake yellow vaccination cards inside. Allegedly it should be given by the doctor with an original stamp, sticker and signature. Some advertise with "original Biontech Pfizer stickers". The providers want to adapt the exhibition locations to the vaccination district and be based on the shipping address.

Buyers are said to have received the vaccination certificate by post. There are some of these counterfeit offers, but the easiest way to get them is via Telegram. The messenger service Telegram is comparable to Whatsapp, but has extended group functions that are used a lot. If you use the app and only enter “vaccination pass” or “vaccination card” in the search function, you will find several groups offering the fake vaccination documents. Telegram has partly the reputation of a protest app. It is little regulated, and there are also many lateral thinkers and people who are close to the milieu on the move.

What do the Berlin authorities say?

The Berlin public prosecutor's office is currently aware of two such cases. In one of the cases, three men aged 28, 30 and 39 were arrested at the end of April at the Kaulsdorf-Nord underground station in Hellersdorf. They wanted to sell fake vaccination cards to civil servants at the State Criminal Police Office and had previously offered them to them via a messenger service, as stated in a message from the Berlin police. A total of seven vaccination cards were found in the men. Five pieces were offered for sale for a total of 1500 euros, as the Berlin public prosecutor announced.

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In the second case, known to the authorities, a 27-year-old Berliner was arrested in Lichterfelde. He was also convicted by plainclothes police, and he also offered the forged vaccination cards via a messenger. He stored 46 vaccination books and 33 vaccination stickers in his apartment. In addition to drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, the officials found ten thousand euros of alleged trade proceeds, a blank gun and several thousand euros of counterfeit money.

Thomas Thieme from the Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office estimates that through the public discussion about easing the situation for vaccinated people, “criminals have discovered this playing field for themselves in order to earn money”. Because of the small number of previously known cases and suspects, he could not draw the dark field or a perpetrator profile.

How are the ID cards forged?

“It is relatively easy to forge vaccination books. The vaccination books can be purchased blank in relevant online shops. That alone is not punishable, ”explains Thieme. The perpetrators would then forge stamps, signatures and stickers with the name of the vaccine and a batch number. Each vaccine production unit (batch) has a number that is entered on the vaccination sticker.

The company Biontech even provides “Printing instructions for vaccination ID labels” on their website. A request from the Tagesspiegel to the pharmaceutical company remained unanswered at the time of going to press. The criminals would take over the batch numbers of the vaccination doses via photos of vaccination passports on social media. "I can only appeal to all those who have been vaccinated - no matter how happy they are about the vaccination - not to post photos of their vaccination records on the Internet," says Thieme.

What penalties do counterfeiters and buyers have to expect?

From a legal point of view, false certificates or falsified vaccination passports are generally considered to be forgery of documents. According to the penal code, this is sanctioned with a prison sentence of up to five years. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert had emphasized that this was not a trivial offense, but an act that was punishable by punishment and that was also being prosecuted.

However, forgery of documents has a competitor with regard to forged vaccination passports. Because the Criminal Code also explicitly criminalizes the falsification of health certificates in another standard (Section 277 of the Criminal Code). The result: only one year imprisonment or a fine.

The CSU legal politician Volker Ullrich therefore fears that the falsification of documents could possibly be blocked as a criminal offense for the forgery of the vaccination pass and the perpetrators could only be punished according to the milder norm, namely the falsification of health certificates. "This might have a less deterrent effect for the perpetrators," warns Ullrich to the Tagesspiegel. “Politicians must at least give thought to these criminal regulations. That should be discussed openly. You have to check whether the applicable law is sufficient here. "

Would the digital vaccination card be forgery-proof?

The little yellow paper book is both a blessing and a curse. Because the inconspicuous paper vaccination pass is currently the only proof of vaccination protection, with which some freedoms should come back from the weekend. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) had announced that a digital form of the vaccination card would be available between mid-May and the end of June.

According to the Ministry of Health, the vaccinations entered in the paper ID card are to be transferred to the new digital EU vaccination ID card via doctor's offices, vaccination centers or pharmacies. A project that arouses criticism. Because the entries for corona vaccinations can be forged so easily and it is difficult to distinguish between fake and original, it must be assumed that some fakes will also find their way into the digital system.

Although Spahn had promised at the Doctors' Day that the digital ID would be “a fairly safe event”, he too saw that transferring fake analog vaccination records to digital could lead to problems. However, he wants to stick to having the digital entry also made in pharmacies - in order not to overload vaccination doctors and centers. And so the Ministry of Health is currently still looking for the right middle ground.

The hacker association Chaos Computer Club (CCC) clearly sees responsibility for the open security gap with the Ministry of Health. When entering the yellow ID, there is no protection against counterfeiters at all. "That could have been solved better - with hologram stickers, for example, with embossed paper, with materials that not everyone can click together on Amazon," said CCC spokesman Matthias Marx.

Why hasn't the digital vaccination certificate been around for a long time?

So far, the vaccination record has mainly served the vaccinated persons themselves and the doctors as an overview of existing immunizations. Only in rare cases, for example when entering other countries, was it necessary to carry a vaccination card with the relevant proof of vaccination. So it wasn't designed to be forgery-proof before. Before the pandemic, there was simply no need for it. Now, however, it has practically become an entrance ticket to the restaurant and cinema.

Friedrich Merz (CDU) said on Thursday evening on Markus Lanz's show that he had already said Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) a year ago that they needed forgery-proof vaccination cards. And the health policy spokeswoman for the Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Maria Klein-Schmeink, also criticized: “The federal government overslept a number of topics, especially digital responses to the pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, protective equipment and economic aid were in the foreground, that's understandable. "But last summer at the latest, when the first wave was over, one should have seriously dealt with the further development of the Corona warning app and the development of a digital vaccination card.

This is how the federal chairman of the German Association of General Practitioners, Ulrich Weigeldt, sees it: “Digital vaccination certificates can be helpful to people in the country if they are not just announced in full, but actually come - and if it is clear what specific benefits are associated with them . “, Says Weigeldt to the Tagesspiegel. With the new promises, however, one should remain skeptical as to whether action will follow in the near future.

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