Have you already participated in the U.S. Census? It only happens every 10 years — and it’s vital for helping the government understand the needs of its citizens and how many of us there are.
But when a national effort like the Census is underway, you can bet that scammers will try to take advantage of it. Tap or click here to see bogus Census emails to watch out for.
The U.S. Census Bureau has many ways of contacting citizens — but it will never call you up to ask you for information like your Social Security number, bank account or political affiliation. If you get a phone call or text claiming to be from the Census Bureau requesting this information, hang up! It’s a dangerous scam that can cost you money.
These scammers are ‘counting’ on you to be naive
Every decade, the U.S. holds a Census that counts the nation’s population and demographics. And because this is such a large-scale effort, it provides plenty of room for confusion. That’s why scammers are swooping in with fraudulent calls and texts designed to trick you into handing over private data you would have never shared otherwise.
These bogus calls or text messages can be hard to distinguish from the real deal. Sometimes scammers will even attempt to spoof the official Census Bureau phone number (or something close to it) to get in touch with you.
If you make the mistake of picking up or responding, the person on the other end will ask for information like your SSN, bank account, credit card number and political affiliation. Some will even be bold enough to ask for donations.
Want to spot the fakes? Here’s how:
- Only pick up the phone if the number reads 844-809-7717. This is the official Census Bureau’s follow-up number.
- If a scammer somehow manages to spoof the number above, pay attention to what the representative asks you for. If they ask for any personal information like your SSN, financial data, political affiliation or money, hang up.
- If you get a text message claiming to be from the Census Bureau, check to make sure it’s one of the following numbers: 833-972-2561, 833-969-2724, 833-972-2579 and 39242. The later may ask you COVID-19-related questions. This is normal.
- The Census Bureau may also call you with survey questions. These come from the following numbers: (520) 798-4152 and (812) 218-3144.
- If you are contacted via email, make sure the sender address comes from an official .gov domain. The following email addresses are verified to come from the Census Bureau: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and COVID.email@example.com.
- Also, remember that not responding to the Census is not punishable by jail time or fines. Any caller or text that suggests this is a scam.
I fell for the scam! What can I do?
If you made the mistake of giving your information to a Census scammer, there are few steps you can take to protect yourself and your information:
- Report the scam to the Census Bureau by calling 844-330-2020 and to the FCC at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.
- Submit a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Call your bank or credit card company and let them know you may be at risk for fraud.
- Activate two-factor authentication for your account to prevent any unauthorized attempts to access your money. Tap or click here to see how to activate 2FA for your bank.
- Contact a credit bureau and request a freeze until you’re sure that you’re safe. Tap or click here to see how to perform a credit freeze.
Participating in the Census is a patriotic duty — and so is reporting these crimes to the proper authorities. That way, you’re helping to stop others from getting scammed in the future.
Tap or click here to see some of the worst scams spreading online during COVID-19.