/ Scams

Warning: Census 2021 scams are still going strong

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.

Guide: how to spot a scam

Guide: how to get your money back after a scam

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.


Comments

I don’t understand why anyone clicks on these scam links. It’s extremely obvious from their domain names that they’re not genuine. One has to be pretty stupid to believe that digital-amend-campaign7597.com is a public sector domain. The domain was registered on 1st April 2021. April fool?

DerekP says:
10 June 2021

I doubt that an average person will know much about the syntax rules for domain names. Also, statistically speaking, 50% of the population are less intelligent than average.

Ava Jones says:
10 June 2021

Yes, agreed but not everyone is the sharpest tool in the box and scare easily with technology. Have some consideration

If recipients of these messages don’t understand the meaning of domain names, then on what basis do they determine that the link is genuine? Do they just stupidly believe every message they receive? Would they take the same approach with a postal address?

DerekP says:
11 June 2021

NFH, as often discussed before, most scam messages look suspect, even without scrutiny of any linked URL’s. Sussing out those clues is more to do with common sense and world experience than tech skills. Hence, even non nerds stand some chance of smelling a rat.

Presumably the scammers’ website can be taken down promptly after the problem is reported and confirmed. I wonder how long this takes in practice?

It’s very easy for anyone to obtain a domain name and set up a website. What controls are in place to make it difficult for scammers leasing a domain name, particularly one whose URL is similar to a genuine website?

I’m very keen that we try to educate the public to be careful online but it is equally important to make life as difficult as possible for the scammers.

It depends on where the web site is hosted. Very often it will be hosted on a compromised personal computer in a jurisdiction with weak law enforcement without the knowledge of the PC’s owner. This makes it difficult to take down the web site.

Thanks NFH. With a self-hosted site there is obviously no web hosting service to contact to report the problem. I was thinking of the role of the domain registrar that had assigned the domain in question.

Yes, wavechange, this is an excellent point. I am surprised at how slow domain registrars are to suspend domains that are being used for nefarious purposes, or at least to redirect name servers. But I believe that they are contractually prevented from making such changes without a court order, which usually takes a long time.

Thanks NFH. That would explain why rogue websites are not removed promptly. We must protect owners of genuine websites being targeted maliciously (as they have been with DOS attacks) but action is obviously needed to ensure that scammers cannot exploit a system that was put in place before the proliferation of fake websites.

Desmond van den Berg says:
10 June 2021

Me and 2 other members of my family received messages like this, thanks to your warning — just in time — no action was taken to reply or contact by one of us.
Why can’t govt. or fraud organisations not act.?
Or even , make a big thing on TV news and the papers?

Roger says:
10 June 2021

Not everybody who uses a computor / smartphone is as ‘TECH SAVEY’ as a lot of us. GOOD ON YOU WHICH for publicising this.

Gerry says:
10 June 2021

Why don’t you publish the alert number as S-P-A-M instead of the far less memorable 7726 ? It’s why that number was chosen.

Sheila Jones says:
10 June 2021

I had email re census,I had filled the form but thought they hadn’t received it.Filled in details and when i saw they wanted bank details realised it was a scam,it’s designed to worry you saying you can get fined £1,000.

Brenda Whitley says:
10 June 2021

I got the cenus email and immediately blocked the number and deleted it,it came in again under a different number which i again blocked . Thank you for your warning,not everyone is computer savey.

John Coleman says:
10 June 2021

I am a club Treasurer, responsible for paying a 4 figure sum as an annual premium to a broker. Having agreed the cover required, notified of the amount and paid it earlier this year.
Recently, I received an email apparently from the broker saying, “on reviewing our files we found that you have not received a renewal
letter.” Oh really! Why bother over 2 months later? There was an attachment which of course I didn’t click. Have reported it to the national scam investigators.

Linda Lewis says:
10 June 2021

I had recently received an email to say My television license had not been paid and if not paid immediately the police would be on their way with debt collectors. I am a pensioner but not entirely stupid as the Tv license is in my husbands name and he had received notification that it was paid and in place. I often get either phone calls or texts and told one person on the phone to get a real job and stop scanning innocent people. To me these are the lowest of the low and how society has changed. Many years ago thieves would never steal from their own back yard as the saying goes and said there was honour amongst thieves. Now they would steal from their own families and how life has become worthless to some people. I know life has changed drastically for some people and everyone is in a different financial situation but to me scammers are the worst form of low life.

E A Haynes says:
10 June 2021

I refuse to use any link which comes from an email. I took this up with my Bank who sent an email with such a link. They apologised and said it came from an outside source which was under contract to run a survey. Many companies do this and it should be banned.
I use two credit agencies who send reminders for me to check. I refuse to use these, go direct to their websites, log in and check that the address shows a lock which, I am told, proves it it is encrypted and secure. I suggest this process to everyone- fiddly but safe.

I received a text about not having completed my census form. I knew this was incorrect as I had had 2 visits from census officials checking and also another visit later from someone else checking. There was no way the census could text me as they don’t have my mobile number. I deleted it immediately.

Claire says:
11 June 2021

Same here. In fact we had five visits and two reminder letters. I thought maybe it had got lost in the post when the fifth visitor came. But after that – nothing official, so I assume it arrived safely, eventually. But then I had an email claiming we hadn’t submitted, with a link to a website with a totally different url – bit of a giveaway that I think. Deleted it.

Charles says:
10 June 2021

I spent 40 years in the IT industry. Scammers did not exist in the early days but there were plenty of crooks exploiting people – nothing changes. My rules are very simple “Never reply to a text or respond to a phone call when you do not know the actual person whatever the ‘urgent’ reason to call you or the great offer that is only available for a very short time. If you think it might be a genuine important contact, call the company/organisation/police etc on their helpline number as advertised on their literature or their genuine website. There are no exceptions to these rules. This is really easy!

DonW says:
11 June 2021

The rule is simple: if you don’t have hard evidence that it isn’t a scam then treat it as a scam.