Businesses across the United States are increasingly leaning into the vaccination effort, offering a range of freebies and incentives to customers who show proof of getting a COVID-19 shot.
Security experts note, however, that the information on vaccine record cards—currently the only proof of vaccination—contains sensitive information that bad actors could exploit; they urge people to be mindful when flashing the cards—and definitely not share photos of them on social media.
Three separate vaccines against the CCP virus have been approved in the United States, and a fourth emergency use application is expected soon for AstraZeneca’s version. Over 128 million doses have been administered as of March 23, with the highest administration rates in New Mexico, Alaska, Connecticut, and the Dakotas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Looking to help the vaccination rollout build more steam, many companies—including Amtrak, Dollar General, Instacart, McDonald’s, and Target—have offered incentives to their employees to get the vaccine, including paid leave, footing the bill for rides to and from administration sites, and cash payments.
Some businesses are now taking that a step further and starting to offer their customers vaccine perks.
Krispy Kreme announced on March 22 that it will offer a free Original Glazed doughnut “anytime, any day, every day for the rest of the year” for customers in the United States who display a vaccine card.
Some local food and beverage retailers have launched similar tactics to promote vaccinations. Rumbleseat Bar & Grille, a restaurant in Chicopee, Massachusetts, said in a Facebook post in early February that it will offer a 20 percent discount for dine-in meals to customers with proof of vaccination. Oak and Reel, a Detroit restaurant, offered customers a 50 percent discount on dine-in meals.
“We want to encourage people to get the vaccine and celebrate those who have,” Oak and Reel chef and owner Jared Gadbaw said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Major corporations are also looking to encourage people to get vaccinated, with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg recently announcing a global campaign to get 50 million people “a step closer to getting COVID-19 vaccines,” including by expanding the use of chatbots and other tools to encourage people to register for a shot. Others will help people travel, with Lyft and Uber offering to provide free transportation to vaccination centers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Generally, to qualify for the perks—like Krispy Kreme’s free donut—people need to show their vaccination cards, which include their name and date of birth and are currently the only proof anyone has that they’ve been vaccinated.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has warned people not to be careless with displaying the cards, urging them in a blog post not to post selfies of themselves holding the document.
“The self-identifying information on it makes you vulnerable to identity theft and can help scammers create phony versions,” the BBB said.
Sandra Guile of the International Association of Better Business Bureaus told “Good Morning America” recently that “some unsavory individuals out there” will use the information on vaccine cards and will “try to open up credit cards, buy cellphones, go shopping.”
Jake Milstein, a cybersecurity expert and chief marketing officer at CI Security, told NBC5 Chicago that the information on vaccine cards is of value to criminals and urged caution.
“This is why on the black market and on the dark web, health care records sell for more than identity records,” Milstein told the outlet.