The 2020 United States Census is happening at the same time as a global pandemic, shelter-in-place orders, and government stimulus payments. With so much going on at once, scammers are using the unique circumstances to create confusion. Their goal is to get their hands on your personal information, which they then use to steal your identity.
How the Scam Works
You receive an unsolicited message via text, email, or a social media messenger. The message 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.” If you click the link, you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone. This virus 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. However, the website is a fake. You will be asked for personal information, such as your Social Security number and bank account information. The U.S. Census Bureau does not ask for this information!
How to Avoid 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 someone visits your home claiming to be a Census representative, here are two ways to check their identity before allowing them into your home or providing any information.
- First, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
- If you still have questions about their identity, you can call 844-330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative.
For More Information
Get tips from the U.S. Census Bureau about how to avoid census related fraud and scams. Learn more about the stimulus payments on IRS.gov. Read up on phishing scams at BBB.org/PhishingScam. Learn more about scams related to COVID-19 at BBB.org/Coronavirus.
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. Your report can help others to spot a scam before it’s too late.