FRAUDSTERS are using the census to target vulnerable Brits to scam them out of thousands of pounds.
ActionFraud and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are among the organisations warning Brits not to fall for the tricksters.
The census is a national survey carried out every 10 years to gather information about the population to help inform national and local policy.
The questionnaire focuses on topics including religion, education, ethnicity and health.
Brits have a legal obligation to fill it out, with the deadline for responses being yesterday - Sunday March 21.
In England, those who refuse to fill it out or give false information risk being slapped with a £1,000 fine.
But scammers are still trying to cash in on the confusion by posing as officials and demanding money for fines.
Officials say they have received a number of reports of fraudsters turning up at people's homes in person, cold calling or sending phishing emails.
There have been several occasions where victims have even handed over cash believing the claims were legitimate.
In other cases, vulnerable Brits have unwittingly disclosed their bank details and national insurance numbers, leaving their money vulnerable to cyber criminals.
Victims are unlikely to get their money back from the thieves unless they are caught and prosecuted.
ONS - the researchers that carry out the census - said it had heard of these types of scams taking place all over the country.
Earlier this month, Action Fraud warned: "Criminals may try to use this [the census] as an opportunity to send phishing emails or texts."
The statement went on: "When filling out the census you will be asked for personal details such as your date of birth, your occupation and where you live.
"You will never be asked to provide your national insurance number or financial details."
Cybersecurity exert at Egress, Tony Pepper, is urging everyone to hover over any links before clicking them in emails claiming to be about the census.
BY keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid getting caught up in a scam:
- Firstly, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
- Check brands are "verified" on Facebook and Twitter pages - this means the company will have a blue tick on its profile.
- Look for grammatical and spelling errors; fraudsters are notoriously bad at writing proper English. If you receive a message from a “friend” informing you of a freebie, consider whether it’s written in your friend’s normal style.
- If you’re invited to click on a URL, hover over the link to see the address it will take you to – does it look genuine?
- To be on the really safe side, don’t click on unsolicited links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact.
- Be careful when opening email attachments too. Fraudsters are increasingly attaching files, usually PDFs or spreadsheets, which contain dangerous malware.
- If you receive a suspicious message then report it to the company, block the sender and delete it.
- If you think you've fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.
This will allow people to see the sender's full email address to determine whether it looks genuine.
"[The ONS] will only ever contact you from the email@example.com email address," he said.
"If you have received an email or text message requesting your information for the census and it’s from a different email address, we’d urge you to notify Action Fraud using its online reporting service.
"It's important to keep in mind that the ONS will never request your national insurance number, passwords, bank account details, or card numbers.
"If in doubt, contact them directly to check any communications you've received are legitimate."
If you believe you have been a victim of a census scam, you should report it immediately to ActionFraud either online or over the phone.
You should also contact your bank straight away if you believe your personal details have been compromised.
You may be given the option to cancel your card and change your passwords.
Sadly, scammers often take advantage of nationwide situations to trick people out of their money.
In the first two months of the first coronavirus lockdown last year, criminals connect Brits out of almost five millions pounds through scams related to the outbreak.
Earlier this month, we reported how scammers are targeting the millions of shoppers waiting for a parcel with a new Royal Mail text message con.
Fraudsters are also using bogus NHS emails and texts to make people pay for these vaccines or hand over their bank details, police and health officials have warned.
Source: The Sun