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KARE 11 Investigates: The Census & COVID-19 Scams

A warning to be on the lookout for Census and COVID-19 related scams.

ST PAUL, Minn — Between COVID-19, the Census, and now stimulus checks soon to go out, it seems the world has become a scammer’s paradise.

“The thieves know that this is a great opportunity for them, particularly with the backdrop of COVID-19,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

KARE 11 Investigates has compiled some Census resources to help you separate fact from fiction and trust what you’re being asked to fill out is legitimate.

There’s a rumor floating around social media and the internet that not filling out your 2020 Census will impact whether you receive a stimulus check.

The U.S. Census Bureau confirms that rumor is totally false.

The official Census website states, “Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for any government benefits, including any potential stimulus package. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential, and the answers you provide are used only to produce statistics.”

However, there is plenty of evidence that scammers will look to take advantage of the Census to try and steal personal information.

The ITRC warns there has been a sharp increase in identity theft and fraud that masquerades as government agency communications, which could mean an increase in census scams. Scammers try everything from claiming your Social Security number has been suspended to threatening you with police action for unpaid taxes. They can even spoof their email address or phone number on your caller ID to seem legitimate.

“It’s a great way for them to try to get people to part with their cash, their personally identifying information, just any valuable data that they can,” said Velasquez.

Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower says most homes in Minnesota should have received a letter in the mail from the Census.

For the official fact sheet on the timeline of Census mailings CLICK HERE.

To compare the letter you received with an official sample to insure what you have is real and not a scam mailing, CLICK HERE.

Brower warns there are several pieces of information the Census will NOT ask for, and if you are being asked for this information, it’s a scam.

The Census will not as for:

  • Any financial information
  • Bank or credit card numbers
  • Social Security numbers

“None of that will be asked on the Census,” said Brower. “It also doesn’t ask for political donations.”

She says the U.S. Census Bureau will also never send unsolicited emails requesting participation.

In fact, Brower said there’s a simple way to avoid all Census scams. Go right to the source – the official website my2020census.gov.

“If you go online to my2020census.gov you know it is the right place to fill out your Census,” she explained. “You can do it now and you won’t need to have any interactions with other folks.”

The official phone number for the Census is 844-330-2020, or call the number associated with your preferred language. The 12 non-English language phone options are posted here.

KARE 11 is working to identify and expose coronavirus related scams and price gouging.  It you have an example CLICK HERE.

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KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.