Beware of Phony Census Workers

by Xin Lu on 11 January 2010 14 comments

This year the United States Census Bureau will be conducting its regularly scheduled census. Every address in the United States will receive a census form and census workers will be sent to those who do not respond. Unfortunately, con artists may be taking the opportunity to run scams. Here are some tips for avoiding a census related scam.

Ask for identification.

If someone comes to your door claiming to be a census worker, ask for their badge from the Census Bureau. They should also have a handheld computer and a Census Bureau bag. There should also be a confidentiality agreement because it is illegal for census workers to reveal information specifically about you. Before you answer any questions you should make sure that the person is legitimately working for the Census Bureau.

Look out for suspicious questions.

Census workers should not ask you for your Social Security number, credit card numbers, or any kind of banking information. They may ask questions such as race, gender, household income, and education, but any questions that may lead to identity or financial theft would be a warning sign that you are dealing with a scammer.

Keep strangers out.

If someone comes to your door claiming to be a census worker, you do not have to let them in. You should make sure that you are comfortable and safe first. If the person at your door is a real census employee then they should not mind taking your answers down outside. Scammers and other criminals may be more pushy to get into your house.

Avoid forged emails.

The Census Bureau is conducting their business by telephone, mail, or in person. If you receive an email claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau, then chances are it is fake. Do not open any attachments in these emails or click links and give out your passwords via these emails.

Do not give out money.

Apparently there are scammers that are using the name of the Census Bureau to solicit donations. Filling out the census form should not cost you any money. It is not an application of any sort and census employees would help you fill out the forms for free.

The best way to make sure that a census worker will not knock on your door is to mail back the simplified census form. As always, you should be vigilant to protect yourself and your family.

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Guest's picture
Deborah

Thanks for the heads up! It's good to know who's a scammer and who isn't. Being someone who earns most of my income online, I've come across some very sophisticated scammers. They all go into the spam folder though. I live in a community with a lot of elderly people so I'll let my neighbors know about this. Thanks again!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the tips!

I never thought of this, I'll make sure my family (especially my wife) is aware of the census credentials to watch for!

Guest's picture
croatian1

I will be running copies of this to hand out to my neighbors. Hubby and I are the Neighborhood Block Watch Captains, and I will make sure our neighbors get this. We have quite a few elderly on our block, so I want to make sure they understand about not letting just anyone in that may be a phony census worker.

Guest's picture

Great tips for protecting yourself!

You can avoid having a census worker at your home by mailing back the one you receive by post in a timely manner. Census workers are sent out primarily for the houses that don't return theirs by mail.

I was a Census worker in the 2000 Census. I wouldn't have had a job had everyone just mailed it in the first time around!

Guest's picture
saudade

Thank you for these tips. I will be giving these to my mom.

Guest's picture
Michele

Just be aware that if you use a PO Box, a census worker will come to your door because the US Census won't mail to a PO Box. It's a huge pain because my husband has to go out to a lot more homes than he should have to!
You are right that he does not mind taking your answers from your door step, he does not have to go in - and he always has ID, and his laptop from the US Census bureau.
Please either mail it in or at least answer some of the questions!

Guest's picture
Lucille

What the Census office has failed to do is inform people when the mailed form packet would be going out. I received a packet in early 2009. It seemed very odd to be getting a 2010 census packet about a year early and I wasn't able to find anything on it that convinced me it was actually from the government and not some elaborate scam. So I eventually pitched it in the trash.

I want to participate in the census but they have to make it clearer what is legit and what is not. I would even download and mail in the forms if I had that option.

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Jeff Serena

The 2010 decennial census is being conducted as a paper operation. The decennial census enumerators will not have handheld computers. Handhelds were widely used by census field employees for address canvassing (updating the address database from the 2000 census and other sources) in the spring of 2009 and may be used in some other census operations, so whether or not a person is carrying a handheld does not indicate whether or not he or she is legitimate census worker.

As another commentator noted, the best way to avoid having a census employee come to your door is to fill our your census questionnaire. These will be mailed during the second week in March, and most households should expect to receive their questionnaires between March 15 and 17. It's a short form this year, just ten questions, and probably less than ten minutes to fill out completely.

Guest's picture
Guest

Good to know these signs. My sister was a Census worker in 2000 and she would come home with stories of how nasty people can be or be distrustful in a mean way. Census workers are people like us so don't forget to treat them kindly thanks.

MJ

Guest's picture
Alicia

A lot of people still get nasty or challenge enumerators even today. The ones that get to me are the ones who try to convince you to come back at a certain time that day or the next day and then they are not there. I have learned to dodge this little system.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm a supervisor for the census and we do not (nor do our enumerators) have handheld computers. Maybe it's because I live in a pretty rural low-funded area but...just so you know. We're doing everything the old-fashioned way, with lots and lots of paperwork.

Guest's picture
Alicia

I am an enumerator for a mid-size city (0ver 250,000 ppl) with the Census and we don't have computers either. Maybe 10 years from now, that will be different.

Guest's picture
Guest

I received a few mailings in January and I am scared to death that I may have given my identity away.

I first received a letter telling me I would be receiving the US Census. Then, just as they said, I received a lengthy packet asking a lot of questions.

This is my first census as an adult living on my own. I had no idea that it could possibly be a scam and I had no idea what type of questions they would and wouldn't ask. Unknowingly, I filled out the whole thing.

Now that I'm realizing a little ways down the road that this was most likely a scam, I cannot for the life of me remember what information I gave on the packet.

I did not make a copy. I do not have the mailing address. And I do not have any accompanying documentation that I received.

I could not find anything online about people with similar mailings. What steps should I take next?

Guest's picture
Alicia

This sounds to me like you answered the Census. First was the letter, then came the packet to fill out. They sent this packet out a couple of times this year to the same house in case you had not recieved your first one. I would not be so worried unless you gave out 1) your banking, 2) your social security number. It is common to give the Census your phone number in case they have any further questions.