A census scam is taking advantage of the public’s confusion regarding the stimulus payments that were sent out by the government to aid Americans during the coronavirus crisis.
The Better Business Bureau says the goal of the scammers is to get their hands on your personal information, which they’ll use to steal your identity.
“The 2020 United States Census is happening at the same time as a global pandemic, shelter-in-place orders, and government stimulus payments,” wrote the BBB. “With so much going on at once, scammers are using the unique circumstances to create confusion.”
Here’s how the scam works:
The BBB says victims receive an unsolicited message via text, email or on social media that explains that in order to qualify for your stimulus payment, you need to first complete the 2020 U.S. Census. Whether or not you’ve completed the real census, don’t click. It’s a scam.
Some versions of the phony message include a link to a website “for more information,” according to the BBB. If you click the link, officials say you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone that can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords, and other personal information stored on your computer.
“In other cases, the link may take you to a website that looks like it was created by the official U.S. Census Bureau,” wrote the BBB. “However, the website is a fake.”
On that website, you’ll be asked for personal information, such as your Social Security number and bank account information. Don’t fill that out. The U.S. Census Bureau does not ask for this information.
The BBB offers these tips on avoiding census scams:
· Know how the U.S. Census Bureau communicates. The U.S. Census Bureau will only send you emails if you already signed up for them, and it will never ask you to send personal information in an email. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau will never contact you on behalf of a political party.
· Only visit official websites. Valid U.S. government websites almost always end in “.gov”. You can find key information about the 2020 census at 2020census.gov and information about economic stimulus payments at irs.gov/coronavirus.
· Never click on links in unsolicited messages. Phishing scams direct you to websites that look official, but these sites may be infected with malware. If you don’t know and trust the person who sent you the message, don’t click on any links.