With the 2020 Census coming during a global pandemic that has brought shelter-in-place orders, economic stimulus payments and more, a watchdog group is warning that scammers may seize the opportunity to prey on victims.
With chaos going on, scammers are using the unique circumstances to sow confusion, according to Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
"Their goal is to get their hands on your money or personal information, which they can use to steal your identity," Bernas said in a statement.
How the Scam Works
A scammer sends an unsolicited message by text, email or social media messenger. The message likely explains that the person receiving it qualifies for his or her stimulus payment, but first needs to complete the 2020 Census, according to the BBB.
Whether that consumer has completed the Census or not, the BBB warns not to click on the link to fill it out because it is likely a scam.
Some versions of the message include a link to a website to learn more information. The link can put a virus on the computer, which enables scammers access to usernames, passwords and personal information stored on the computer.
In other cases, the link in the message may take the consumer to a website that appears to be the official Census Bureau, but it is not. The website will likely ask for the consumer's personal information such as his or her Social Security number and bank account information.
The BBB warns that the Census Bureau does not ask for this information.
Things to Know to Avoid Census Scams
- The Census Bureau will only send you emails if you signed up for them and will never ask you to send personal information in an email format
- The Census Bureau will never contact you on behalf of a political party
- Valid U.S. government websites almost always include the ending ".gov"
- Many scam websites direct you to websites that look official, but have a virus embedded
If you are the victim of a scam related to the 2020 Census or economic stimulus payments, the BBB encourages you to report it at BBB.og/ScamTracker