It’s been a few months since the deadline for the 2021 Census in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but scammers are still trying their luck with fake texts threatening fines for not completing your survey properly.
Scammers are continuing to tell people that their Census submission either hasn’t been received or that information is missing, and because of this you risk being fined £1,000.
It’s suggested you can prevent being fined by clicking on a link included in the messages, but it will only take you to a fake website designed to steal your personal details. Any information you inadvertently hand over could then be used to target you with more sophisticated scams in the future.
Neither of these texts are real. The government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which carries out the surveys, confirmed it never texts participants, or non-participants, about their survey.
It said Census branded letters are sent through the post to households that haven’t provided a response. Fines or payments are never requested on the doorstep, over the phone, by text message or on social media. If people refuse to complete the Census, they will be interviewed under caution and could face a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record. But before someone can be fined, their case must go to court.
The ONS told us that 97% of households in England and Wales have completed the Census this year.
Scammers know full well that most people have submitted their surveys, but these scams are continuing as they’re trying to panic people into proving they’ve already taken part, which they might expect to involve sharing personal and contact details.
How to deal with scams relating to the Census
⚠ Ignore all texts and emails that claim to be about your missing or incomplete Census – the ONS has confirmed that they’re all fake.
⚠ Avoid clicking on links in text messages. This is the best way you can stay safe from SMS phishing (or smishing) scams.
⚠ If you’re still concerned, you can call the ONS to check your submission was received. Freephone 0800 141 2021 in England, 0800 169 2021 in Wales and 0800 328 2021 in Northern Ireland. Scotland’s Census has been postponed until 2022 due to the pandemic.
If you’ve entered personal details into a website you’ve been linked to from one of these scam texts, try not to worry – you can protect yourself from being targeted by further scams by being cautious of unexpected calls from unknown numbers, and avoiding clicking links in texts. However, if you’ve entered payment information, let your bank know what’s happened immediately.
⚠️ SCAM ALERT❗️ We have seen several variations of this Census scam circulating online.
🚨 Any letters, phone calls, texts, or emails, attempting to take payment for a late or incorrect census submission are scams.
Sign up for free scam alerts→ https://t.co/L7GZUvRw7j
— Which? (@WhichUK) April 6, 2021
Scammers often use the details they’ve obtained from these kinds of scams to convince you they’re calling from your bank and attempting to manipulate you into transferring money to another account. Always be wary of phone calls claiming to be from your bank, even if your bank’s name is displayed on your mobile – it is possible for fraudsters to spoof official phone numbers.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on your credit file for any suspicious activity or new accounts opened in your name. You can forward text scams like the ones shown here to your network provider using 7726. Mobile networks may share intelligence with the police for investigation.
Have you been sent scam texts relating to the Census? Let us know in the comments, and help us warn friends and family that this is still going on.