BBB warns of scam that preys on confusion regarding U.S. Census, stimulus payments

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The Better Business Bureau is warning that scammers are using confusion regarding government stimulus payments and the U.S. Census to get their hands on personal information, which they can use to steal your identity.

The BBB says the scam starts with an unsolicited text message, email or a social media message. The message claims that in order to qualify for a stimulus payment, you need to first complete the 2020 U.S. Census. Don’t click! Whether or not you’ve completed the real census, it’s a scam.

Some versions of the scam include a link to a website “for more information.” By clicking the link, you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone that can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords and other personal information, according to the BBB.

In other cases, the BBB says the link may be to a website that looks like it was created by the official U.S. Census Bureau but is fake. The website asks for personal information, such as Social Security number and bank account information. The U.S. Census Bureau does request this information.

BBB 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. 

If you’ve been a victim of a scam related to the 2020 Census or economic stimulus payments, be sure to report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker

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