Scam Squad warns about possible scheme asking people to fill out ‘census form’ to receive stimulus check from the government

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As the economic stimulus package moves forward, our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad office want you to be careful.

For days now we’ve been warning you that scammers will likely try to twist the details of the economic stimulus plan to con you out of your money.

Now, experts confirm we have evidence that they may be beginning to pop up in Northeast Ohio.

A family member sent Joshua Wilson a curious Facebook message that contained a link to what looked like the census bureau.

“The message stated that if you didn’t fill out the 2020 census form you wouldn’t get a stimulus check,” Wilson said.

That raises a huge red flag ,according to Sheryl Harris in the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs.

“In no way is the census connected to stimulus,” Harris said. “The census bureau has said you cannot use census data to sign up for government programs.”

Wilson recognized that.

“I said there’s got to be something wrong with this. So, I didn’t click on it. I’m glad I didn’t," he said.

But, a lot of others may be more vulnerable as they wait to learn how and when they could receive a check from the government.

“Scammers love to strike when people are worried,” Harris said.

The biggest thing Harris is asking people to do right now is refrain from sharing something like the census message, if you don’t know whether it’s real.

“It could install malware on their phone,” she said. “Even if you’re well meaning, passing this along if it’s wrong is not helpful to anybody.”

Wilson said, “Had I clicked on it, the money I do have saved and set aside, they could have wiped me out.”

Thankfully, as of right now, Harris doesn’t have any reports from anyone who’s lost money like that yet.

“Ohio stay strong through this,” Wilson said. “Don’t let it get us down.”

Harris says the office sent the link to be checked out by security experts to determine if it really is dangerous or just a hoax. For now, it’s just better to be safe than sorry.

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