3rd June 2021

Census deadline scams strike

Fraudsters are using the National Census as a pretext for gathering people’s financial details.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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Unscrupulous fraudsters continue to target the public through text messages claiming to be from the UK Government and its agencies

While the deadline for responding to the latest Census for England, Wales and Northern Ireland was back in March, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) continues to receive evidence of a scam using Census deadlines as a means to steal financial details. 

The text messages, claiming to be from official sources, allege that the recipient placed invalid information, missed a question in their Census return, or that the Census has not been returned before the deadline. They then also claim that if the correct information is not applied, the recipient will be fined a specific amount ranging from £200 to £1,000.

The messages end with a link to a bogus Census website that requests personal details, which puts the recipient’s finances at risk. 

People in Scotland also report receiving the texts, even though the Census for Scotland is delayed until March 2022. The Scottish Government issued a warning about the scam in May.

CTSI Lead Officer, Katherine Hart, said: “Unscrupulous fraudsters continue to target the public through text messages claiming to be from the UK Government and its agencies. Many similar scam texts are sent to the public, but this scam concerns me because the Census only comes around every ten years. Compared to regular activities such as banking or council tax payments, the public’s unfamiliarity with it could make the Census-themed scam more dangerous than others.

“Never tap on the links these texts contain and forward any scam texts to 7726, a free reporting service run by Ofcom. The public should forward these texts to the authorities as this allows us to build a full picture of the scale of this problem.”