A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: As if a pandemic isn’t enough to worry about, beware of the scammers exploiting the Census

The 2020 U.S. Census is happening at the same time as a global pandemic, shelter-in-place orders and government stimulus payments. Scammers are exploiting these confusing circumstances.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an unsolicited message via text, email or social media messenger. The message says that to qualify for your stimulus payment, you need to complete the 2020 U.S. Census. Whether or not you’ve completed the real census, don’t click the link provided. It’s a scam!

The message directs you to a website. If you click the link, you may download malware onto your device, giving scammers access to usernames and passwords.

The link takes you to a site that looks official but is bogus. It will prompt you to enter information like your Social Security number or bank account details — things the Bureau never asks for.

Know how the U.S. Census Bureau communicates, and be cautious of generic emails.

The Bureau only sends emails if you sign up for them, and scammers cast a wide net by leaving our specific information in their emails. Be wary of messages that don’t contain your name or other personalizing information.

Only visit official websites — don’t click on links or download/open any attachments. Valid U.S. government websites almost always end in “.gov” such as 2020census.gov . Phishing scams direct you to websites that look official, are infected with malware.

Never give out information that makes you vulnerable; if something sounds suspicious, call the Bureau directly or check the official site. Legitimate census takers won’t ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. When checking the website, type the official URL into your browser or do a careful web search to find the right website.

For more information about the 2020 Census, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative, or visit census.gov. Check bbb.org to learn more about avoiding scams, and report scams to BBB at scamtracker.org.

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