2010 Census Scams – Beware!

April 20, 2010

By Terry Smiljanich:

Now that the 2010 official census has started, consumers need to watch out for scam artists and their schemes to part you from your money.

By now, everyone should have gotten a census form in the mail and returned it to the government. Based on incomplete answers, or a complete failure to return the form at all, some followup visits by census employees will be necessary. That’s where the criminals can come into the picture.

Don’t Fall for Fakes

You may get an email from the “U.S. Census Bureau” asking for more information about your form, perhaps even asking for a social security number to “verify” your identity. You may get a telephone call from the “Census Bureau” (confirmed on your phone’s caller-ID) asking for more information. You may get a personal visit from a “Census Worker,” asking to come into your home to obtain further details for the Census Bureau. Don’t fall for these fraudulent tricks to obtain your private information. Before you know it, your bank account could be drained and your identity stolen.

The U.S. Constitution requires a population census every ten years. Your valid responses are required by law (Title 13), and the Census Bureau is required to keep your responses confidential and use them only for tabulations that do not reveal any personal data about individuals or households.  In fact, any census employee disclosing information from a census form is subject to a five year prison sentence and a fine of $25,000. Everyone should cooperate with the Census Bureau, but beware of those who see an opportunity to steal.

Internet Inquiries

Although the Census Bureau does not guarantee it will never communicate with you through the internet, it does not conduct the census through the internet, nor does it send emails about participation in the census. “If you get an email from the Census Bureau that says we want information, that’s not us,” says Kim Hunter, a media specialist for the Census Bureau. Do not respond by clicking on any links within the email or opening any attachments. It is easy for fraudsters to mimic email sites, making you think you are communicating with an official government agency when, in fact, you are in contact with a criminal out to steal your money or infect your computer.

If you do receive an email, ostensibly from the Census Bureau, the safest course is to call the local office in your area and never respond directly to the email, which is probably fake. The Census Bureau has a a special website set up for you to forward any suspicious emails.

Telephone Inquiries

If you get a call from the Census Bureau, do not trust the fact that your caller-ID identifies the caller as the government. Caller-ID’s can be manipulated to mimic official callers. The Census Bureau does not conduct the census through telephone calls. Moreover, it will NEVER:

  1. Ask for your social security number;
  2. Ask for money or a donation; or
  3. Ask for PIN’s, passwords, or other access information to bank accounts or credit cards.

Again, if you get a telephone call from “the Census Bureau,” your safest bet is to state that you will call back. Then, get the number for your regional office and determine that the inquiry is a legitimate one from the government.

Personal Visits

The Census Bureau has hired 800,000 part-time employees to assist with the census. Much of this manpower is needed for follow-up personal visits to locations that did not respond to the census.  If everyone mailed in their form as required, it would save the government $1.5 billion.

Official census workers will carry official government ID badges with an expiration date and the Department of Commerce watermark. They will also have carry bags with the Census logo. The visits will occur between May 1 and July 10. Census workers will never ask to come into your home and are trained to obtain their information from outside your house or apartment.

If you receive a visit from a census worker, you should take the following precautionary steps:

  1. Ask for a secondary ID to confirm the identity of the employee;
  2. Ask the worker for the name of his or her supervisor, and write down the information;
  3. If you are still suspicious, call your regional office before answering any questions;
  4. It is best not to invite the census worker into your home, and if he or she asks, definitely refuse to do so;
  5. Never answer any questions beyond the basic questions contained on the original form; and
  6. Never ever give out personal information regarding your social security number, accounts, etc.

No Donations

Census workers do not work for any political party, and are not there to collect for any charity, so never give them any money or donation. In fact, if they ask for any such thing, you should report them to their supervisor. You will probably discover that they are bogus employees.

The ten year census is important to you and your community. It determines the extent of your representation in Congress and your community’s share of government funding. Following these few simple rules will help to insure you are not taken advantage of by those who attempt to use the census to further their criminal schemes.