People across England and Wales are being warned to be on the lookout for a scam text message regarding the 2021 Census
Millions of households were asked to complete the nationwide survey, which takes place every 10 years across the home nations, in March 2021.
The big data drive is collected by authorities to help improve communities and services, such as transport, education and healthcare for future generations.
Yet scammers are looking to exploit the census process and potentially defraud millions.
What is the Census scam text?
The completion of a Census 2021 form is a legal requirement for every household in England and Wales, or its occupants run the risk of a £1,000 fine.
Scammers, though, are using this potential penalty to try to scare millions of people into clicking on a fraudulent link to avoid having to pay the hefty fine.
The phishing message claims that information is missing from their Census form, or there are errors in their submission, but has been confirmed as fake.
An example of a Census scam text reads: “CENSUS: There is missing information from your Census application. Update your application - please visit www.onsgb.backtrack-submissions.com to avoid £1,000 fine."
Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, has debunked the text and stated there must be a court hearing before a fine is imposed.
How to spot a Census scam text
Fraudulent messages, automated phone calls and dodgy emails have been on the rise since the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
With more and more people using digital devices to stay in contact with others, there has been increased dependency on technology such as mobile phones.
This seems to have inspired a new wave of phishing messages from ‘Amazon delivery fees’ to ‘HMRC tax rebates’ and ‘Royal Mail shipping costs’.
The Census scam text seems to be of the same mould with a random text message arriving in your inbox with a link, which can look legitimate, but is likely to be fraudulent.
These links are designed to extract information and potentially money from its recipient.
An Action Fraud spokesperson said: “For a fine to be imposed your case must go to court for non-completion of the census. You will never be issued with a fine by text message, phone call, email, or on social media. You will not be fined for a mistake on your census.
“The ONS have a Cyber Intelligence Team who are taking down fake sites related to the Census. If you find a site that looks suspicious or receive text messages with links to sites asking for money related to the census, do not engage with them.”
What should I do if I receive a Census scam text?
There are steps you can take to protect yourself and others from scams like this.
Action Fraud encourages people who have spotted a Census scam text to report them to the Census 2021 Contact Centre on 0800 141 2021 in England and 0800 169 2021 in Wales.
Scotland pushed its Census back 12 months due to the Covid pandemic.