CHICAGO — Buying or selling fake coronavirus vaccination cards to be used at Lollapalooza is a crime, agencies are warning ahead of the festival.
The four-day festival — which kicks off Thursday — will require people to show proof they’re fully vaccinated if they want to get in and not wear a mask, officials have said.
That’s expected to create a “perfect storm of scammers selling” fake vaccine cards to people who want to get in but who haven’t gotten fully vaccinated, according to a Better Business Bureau news release.
But creating, buying or selling fake vaccine cards is illegal, and people who do so can face “hefty fines and prison time,” the FBI warned Wednesday. The federal agency is investigating fake vaccination cards.
Many are worried the festival, which routinely attracts more than 100,000 people per day from all over the country, could become a super-spread event, especially as COVID-19 cases are surging.
Using fake vaccine cards endangers the people with the fake card and everyone around them, as they may not be fully vaccinated and protected against COVID-19, the agencies said.
“This scam is especially dangerous because fake tests and vaccine cards not only put people at a health risk, but buying and selling illegal cards is a crime,” Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau, said in a statement. “Buyers and sellers are urged to use extreme caution and remember buying and selling vaccination cards is not only illegal, they can expose themselves and others to COVID if they are not vaccinated.”
On Tuesday, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said “almost certainly” there will be COVID-19 cases associated with Lollapalooza. But she said she hopes there will not be a significant problem if people take safety precautions, like wearing masks if not vaccinated and not attending if sick.
People can still go to Lollapalooza if they are unvaccinated, but they are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival and must wear a mask inside the festival grounds. It’s not clear how that will be enforced once people are inside.
Notably, a Dutch music festival now linked to 1,000 coronavirus cases had even stricter requirements than Lollaplooza: proof of vaccination or a negative test within 40 hours of festival attendance.
And Dr. Emily Landon, who’s regularly been called upon by the city and state to speak at coronavirus news conferences, told NBC the festival should likely be canceled or have stiffer safety restrictions.
Arwady encouraged anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 to get a negative test before the event or to stay home, even if they’re fully vaccinated.
“Don’t attend Lolla — really, don’t attend” if you develop symptoms, Arwady said.
COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.
People with information about fake vaccine cards are asked to call the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online.