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Census 2021 scam warning issued as criminals are 'tricking' people out of their NI numbers

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The census is a wide scale survey that happens every 10 years and provides the Government with a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. The next one takes place on Sunday 21 March and the answers will help organisations make decisions on planning and funding for local concerns.

This can include transport, education and healthcare.

The Government notes the census should take about 10 minutes for household questions and 10 minutes per person involved.

Given the importance of the census, it is worrying that cybersecurity experts and the police themselves are warning of phishing scams posing as communications for the 2021 census.

Tony Pepper, the CEO of cybersecurity firm Egress, commented on this: “In the last year, we’ve seen phishing scams rise dramatically, with cybercriminals taking advantage of everything from Christmas shopping to coronavirus vaccines.

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“Unfortunately, with the 2021 Census approaching, cybercriminals are once again sending phishing emails and text messages aimed at tricking recipients out of their sensitive data, such as financial information or National Insurance numbers.

“When it comes to phishing, our advice is always the same: make sure to hover over any links before clicking, and check the sender’s full email address to determine whether it looks genuine – the Office for National Statistics, which is carrying out the census, will only ever contact you from the [email protected] email address.

“If you have received an email or text message requesting your information for the census and it’s from a different email address, we’d urge you to notify Action Fraud using its online reporting service.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the ONS will never request your national insurance number, passwords, bank account details, or card numbers.

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“If in doubt, contact them directly to check any communications you’ve received are legitimate.”

On March 11, Action Fraud also warned on this, tweeting: “Census Day is coming!

“Households across the UK are currently receiving letters which include a unique 16-digit code to access the census online.

“Criminals may try to use this as an opportunity to send phishing emails or texts.

Action Fraud’s guidance on scam emails noted fake emails often (but not always) display some of the following characteristics which receivers should be aware of:

  • The sender’s email address doesn’t tally with the trusted organisation’s website address.
  • The email is sent from a completely different address or a free web mail address.
  • The email does not use your proper name, but uses a non-specific greeting like “dear customer”.
  • A sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed.
  • A prominent website link. These can be forged or seem very similar to the proper address, but even a single character’s difference means a different website.
  • A request for personal information such as user name, password or bank details.
  • The email contains spelling and grammatical errors.
  • You weren’t expecting to get an email from the company that appears to have sent it.
  • The entire text of the email is contained within an image rather than the usual text format.
  • The image contains an embedded hyperlink to a bogus site.



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