5 Census Scams To Watch Out For In 2020March 18, 2020
This year, Americans will be asked to participate in the 2020 census, a process that occurs every 10 years. While you should expect to be contacted by the U.S. Census Bureau in the coming weeks (and maybe you already have), it’s also a time to watch out for scammers pretending to represent the census.
“The Census Bureau will be contacting Americans in a variety of ways, including phone calls, letters and even Census Bureau workers who will come to your home,” said Steven Weisman, a lawyer, professor, author and expert in identity theft and cybersecurity. And as a part of the census, you will be asked for certain types of personal information.
“That makes the census a perfect vehicle for identity thieves to pose as census workers in an effort to lure you into providing personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft,” said Weisman.
In a recent example, 92-year-old Dallas resident Robert Cooper received an authentic-looking census package in the mail in December. The form asked for personal details, such as age, education and who else lived with him. It also asked for his and his wife’s Medicare numbers, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Believing he was responding to official census mail, Cooper provided those numbers and mailed back the form. Unfortunately, he fell victim to a scam.
“Since it is mandatory for all households to participate in the census and since the census collects very detailed and sensitive personal information, it makes for quite an attractive target for scammers to take advantage of,” said Attila Tomaschek, a data privacy expert with ProPrivacy.com. The good news, he said, is that if you know what to look out for, you can significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim and having your sensitive information or identity stolen.
1. Census Mail Scams
Because the Census Bureau’s first contact is usually through the mail, scammers will try and beat them to the punch and send out faux census documents to unsuspecting recipients.
You may receive false census documents meant to coax personal information from you, as Cooper did. Similarly, you could receive forms that are designed to look like official census mail, but are intended to confuse you and lead to inaccurate census counts. For example, Republicans were caught last month sending out mailers titled “2020 Congressional District Census,” in envelopes labeled “Do not destroy, official document,” which mirrored the look of the official census form. However, these forms were not related to the census at all.
And though there’s plenty of paper-based fraud going on, criminals are also taking mail scams high-tech.
One trick for collecting personal information through the mail is sending postcards with a QR code and asking recipients to scan the code with their smartphones in order to access the census survey on a webpage, according to Rachel Willson, investigative coordinator in client relations for The Smith Investigation…