Census scam warning as criminals use 'unique opportunity' to steal personal details

Criminals are using the "unique opportunity" created by the Census as a way to trick unsuspecting members of the public into sharing personal and financial information.

By Georgina Morris
Friday, 26th March 2021, 11:45 am

Fraud prevention service Cifas said that with Census day having passed on Sunday, scammers are using the opportunity to pressure and trick people into handing over their details.

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It comes as the Yorkshire Evening Post continues its Stop the Scammers campaign, which aims to educate people on spotting the signs and where support is available if you fall victim to fraud.

Scammers are using the Census to pressure and trick people into handing over their details. Picture: Office of National Statistics

With potential fines of up to £1,000 for not completing the Census or for providing false information, criminals are attempting a range of techniques to take advantage.

Action Fraud has warned of the potential for scammers to send phishing emails or texts to trick recipients out of personal details they would expect to disclose to the Census.

There have also been reports of victims claiming to have been called by someone purporting to be from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggesting the Census form had not been completed correctly.

Cifas has stressed that UK residents will only be contacted about the census via letter and will never be asked for their banking details or passwords for online accounts.

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Stop The Scammers campaign aims to raise awareness of scams and help our readers to spot the signs.

Anyone who has provided their details in response to a Census scam is urged to report it to their bank immediately as well as to Action Fraud.

Amber Burridge, head of fraud intelligence for Cifas, said: "The Census is providing criminals with a unique opportunity to steal people’s personal and financial data which can be used to commit identity theft.

"ONS has confirmed that they will never call people and ask for this type of personal information, and if anyone is contacted by someone wanting to discuss their Census form then they must hang immediately and report the incident to Action Fraud."

She said that fraudsters have been quick to respond to new and emerging issues throughout the pandemic in order to steal information and money.

"Although lockdown will begin to ease over the next few months, criminals will try even harder to use opportunities such as the vaccine roll-out to commit fraud," she said.

"Now is not the time to be letting our guard down, and we must continue to be ever vigilant of the threat of fraud."

What other scams have been highlighted by Cifas?

HMRC has issued warnings following reports of a phone scam whereby individuals are told there is an outstanding fraud case in their name. Victims are told to press 1 on their keypad to connect to an officer and discuss their case, with a warning that if they do not comply a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

This scam technique has also been seen with fraudsters purporting to be calling from supermarkets, directing individuals to speak to a member of their fraud team about a large order which is allegedly due to be debited from their account.

These are scam calls and the public are advised to hang up without pressing any other buttons on their keypad. If you do press a button following the message then you will likely be connected to a criminal who will attempt to trick you out of your personal details.

Scam calls purporting to be from HMRC can be reported on the GOV.UK website. If you have provided your details in response to a scam call, report it to Action Fraud or Police Scotland.

A warning has also been issued in response to a scam email purporting to be from a ‘Pfizer Vaccine Opinion Panel’, offering rewards in return for feedback.

With the vaccine now being offered to all adults over the age of 50 in addition to those working in healthcare or at high risk, this scam appears to target those typically associated with being vulnerable to online email scams.

This is a scam email and recipients are advised to not click on links and never share personal information with individuals who cannot prove who they say they are.

Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam is advised to contact their bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud via its website on 0300 123 2040.

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