To paraphrase Paul Revere: The Census is coming, the Census is coming! Beware: scammers and identity thieves are coming, too. According to ABC News, every 10 years, the Census Bureau mails out 100 million questionnaires asking for the name, age, sex and race of every person living at every address. The government uses the information to track population growth, allocate federal funding, and set the number of members in the House of Representatives. The information stays private, because they’re not allowed to publish your name and address for 72 years. For scammers, it’s a great chance to steal from you. So here’s how to protect yourself:
- First, the census form doesn’t ask for Social Security Numbers, or bank account information. To see the 10-question form, go to the website Census.gov. If you get one with different questions on it, report it immediately to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
- Next, beware of email scams. The Census Bureau never sends emails or asks for census forms to be completed online. So, don’t reply to any emails about the census. Don’t click on links, or open attachments – because they may contain a computer virus.
- Another scam to beware of: Phone calls. The Census Bureau will only call if you submitted a form and they can’t read your answers. They won’t ask for more information than was on the original questionnaire. In fact, don’t even trust your caller ID, because some gadgets can make the readout say, “U.S. Census.” If you get a call, verify that it’s legit by contacting the National Processing Center at Census.gov.
- Finally, on May 1st, 800,000 temporary workers will begin knocking on doors to interview households that didn’t mail back the form. To verify that they’re legit, ask to see their Census ID badge, and a matching picture I.D. Also, Census workers never ask for cash payments, donations, or any information that wasn’t on the original questionnaire. Don’t let anyone in your house. Census takers are required to conduct the survey outside your home. If you’d like to report a suspicious person, or you’re interested in getting a temporary Census-taker job, go to 2010.Census.gov.