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Identifying Census Scams This Spring

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A census has been conducted in America for the last 230 years. The statistics collected are used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. The data is also used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Why Is the Census So Important?

Hundreds of billions of federal dollars are allocated to local communities, schools, clinics, roads, services for families and more based on the census data. But in the age of identity theft, U.S. citizens’ private information is in danger. That’s why it’s critical to be able to recognize these threats during the 2020 Census.

Mail, Email and Text Messages

The U.S. Census Bureau will never share your private information. It’s strictly used for statistical purposes. Any Census Bureau employee caught sharing your information will face a hefty fine and lengthy jail sentence.

The threat to your private information is not coming from the ranks of the Census Bureau. It’s coming externally. Scheming businesses and organizations are the biggest culprits. Manipulative entities take advantage of the census’ timing and misleadingly use its name to their advantage. Methods can include sending out fake mailers, emails (phishing) or text messages. (Recently, there was a text message delivery scam trying to swindle Amazon customers.) Keep in mind that the Census Bureau will never ask you for:

  • your full social security number
  • money or donations
  • the political party you’re affiliated with
  • your credit card or bank information

These are all red flags and an indication that this is not coming from a legitimate Census Bureau source. The Census Bureau recently assembled the Trust and Safety Team to proactively combat these threats. If you receive suspicious emails, forward them to ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov.

Whatever you do, avoid opening or replying to dubious emails or text messages. Never readily provide your private information.

Verbal Interaction

Threats to your private information can come from verbal interactions too. Scammers can use Caller ID spoofing to make it appear as if they are calling from a real Census Bureau number. A rumor was circulating that burglars were posing as census field workers and casing homes before robbing them. While these reports are false, it’s possible that a person could pose as an employee to steal your private information. The way to avoid getting tricked into giving it away is by knowing how to identify a legitimate census worker. Every field worker should be wearing an official Census Bureau ID badge. The badge will include his or her photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If any of these are missing, the person is likely a phony.

If you encounter a suspicious individual, don’t hesitate to call your local police department. Report the incident to the Census Bureau by contacting them by phone (1-800-923-8282), email (respondent-advocate@census.gov) or online (ask.census.gov).

Be Conscious This Spring

The census is vital to our nation. It’s imperative to get an accurate count. Don’t let threats to your private information dissuade you from participating in it this spring. But be conscious of the threats to your private information and how to avoid identity theft.

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