It's important to know what information the Census Bureau will never ask you for in order to determine what inquiries could be scams. The Census Bureau never asks for:
- Your full Social Security Number
- PIN codes
- Bank-account numbers
- Credit card information
- Any other personal financial information
- Money or donations
- Political affiliation
One of the most significant scams predicted for this year's Census involves “phishing” — the fraudulent effort to acquire sensitive personal information via e-mail by claiming to be a trustworthy entity. You should know that the Census Bureau does NOT conduct the 2010 Census via the Internet nor does it send emails about participating in the 2010 Census. If you receive an e-mail fraudulently claiming to need private information for the Census, don't open any attachments or click any links. Simply report it to the Census Fraud Department by forwarding the e-mail or Website URL to email@example.com. The Bureau will investigate the information and notify you of its findings. You can learn more about the Census by visiting http://www.census.gov.
Also, remain vigilant for Census-related scams both through the postal mail and in person. Some cases of fraud have already occurred; several senior citizens in Illinois received letters claiming to be from the Census Bureau asking for their credit card information. If you receive a letter you find suspicious, please contact the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Additionally, Census takers will have several forms of identification and will gladly present these to you. They are also trained to do business outside the door, so take caution if anyone asks to enter your home. Simply knowing what to look for can help you protect yourself.
What to Look For
Any request for census information from the Census Bureau will be clearly marked as coming from the U.S. Census Bureau and as “Official Business” of the United States. If you are unsure that the form you receive is the official 2010 Census, feel free to contact your regional census office. Once census takers are dispatched to houses, there may be some thieves impersonating government employees. Here are some simple ways to identify a legitimate census taker:
- All census takers carry official government badges marked with just their name, an expiration date, and a Department of Commerce watermark that they will readily display
- You may also ask them for a picture ID from another source to confirm their identity
- They will carry a handheld device or computer to enter data
- They may carry an official Census Bureau canvas bag
- They will NEVER, under any circumstances, ask to enter your home or solicit donations
How the Census Works
Every 10 years, the Census is conducted to determine how to distribute government funds to communities and to ensure each state has the proper number of political representatives. The questionnaire consists of ten non-personal questions addressing issues like name, gender, age, race, etc. The forms are mailed to households in March and, if not returned, Census takers begin going door to door to obtain the information in late April. Since many people are unfamiliar with the Census due to its infrequency, it's the perfect opportunity for identity thieves to con people out of their personal information.
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† The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is made available to consumers by Equifax Information Services LLC and fulfilled on its behalf by Equifax Consumer Services LLC.
†† Insurance underwritten by member companies of American International Group, Inc. The description herein is a summary only. It does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for complete details of coverage and exclusions.
** WebDetect™ scans thousands of internet sites where consumers' personal information is suspected of being bought and sold, and is constantly adding new sites to those it searches. However, the internet addresses of these suspected internet trading sites are not published and frequently change, so there is no guarantee that WebDetect is able to locate and search every possible internet site where consumers' personal information is at risk of being traded.
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