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BBB Scam Alert: US Census scam preys on stimulus confusion

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, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The scam works by you receiving 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, BBB said.

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 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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Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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