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4/15/10

Criminals trying to use US Census as excuse to scam people and what you can do to protect yourself



As most of America knows, the census forms have been mailed out. You have either received one or someone in your household has received and filled it out. The questionnaire is simple, the questions are very general, and some are the same questions asked since the 1790's. In case you are wondering, the links below show what the form looks like, an explanation of each question, and how long each question has been asked.

The Questions on the Form - 2010 Census

The Questions on the Form (Text Version) - 2010 Census

Some things you should know about the census:

1. It helps determine how much federal government money your state will get for education, public transit, bridges, hospitals, senior care, and emergency services.

2. It determines how many seats a state has in the US House of Representatives.

3. Believe it or not, it can help with genealogy research.

4. The most information collected is accessible to the public, and the US Census website has data tools for the information collected.
The US Census website data tools page

5. Call center numbers are 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282.

6. Mailing address:

Via U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
U.S. Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233

Via private carriers (FedEx, DHL, UPS, couriers and suppliers):
U.S. Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746

The US Census is not a big brother scare or a thing to be feared. Getting the facts about the US Census helps you to understand what is being asked of you. The best way to find out is to visit their website: The US Census Websiste

Now that we've gone over the basics, there's something else about knowing the facts which helps. It helps you to not be taken in by scam artists who claim to be working for the US Census. Knowing the facts helps protect your information and you. Reports have already started surfacing about criminals using the US Census as an excuse to get people to give out their personal information like Social Security Number (SSN), credit card numbers, bank accounts and ID information, to name a few.

The US Census Bureau has already given out warnings about phishing scams and it bears repeating. No US Census representative will use the internet or email as a way to get US Census information. The only approved ways are in person, by phone, or by the official US Census form sent out by the US Census Bureau. A US Census Representative will not ask for a complete SSN, banking information, passwords for any type of account, nor do they request donations or money. The US Census is not affiliated with any political party, so they do not make requests on behalf of any party or organization.

If you encounter someone claiming to be a US Census representative and they ask you for money, bank information, or your full social security number, contact the US Census office in your state and also contact your local police. The numbers for the US Census office in your state are listed below:

States

ATLANTA Alabama, Florida, Georgia
404-335-1555

BOSTON Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, Puerto Rico, Vermont, New York (all counties except those covered by the NY Regional Office listed in the state of NY below)
617-223-3700

CHARLOTTE Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
704-936-5300

CHICAGO Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin
312-454-2700

DALLAS Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
214-267-6900

DENVER Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming
720-475-3640

DETROIT Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia
313-396-5200

KANSAS CITY Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma
816-994-2000

LOS ANGELES Hawaii, Southern California (Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, LA, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura Counties)
818-717-6700

NEW YORK New York (New York, Bronx, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Kings, Westchester, Rockland and Suffolk Counties), New Jersey (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Middlesex, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren Counties)
212-971-8810

PHILADELPHIA Delaware, D. C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey (all counties except those covered by the NY Regional Office listed in the state of NJ above)
215-717-1020

SEATTLE Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Northern California (all counties except those covered by the LA Regional Office listed in southern California above)
425-908-3000

Puerto Rico Area Office Puerto Rico
787-705-8201

Tips for you to identify a scam:

This summer, your neighborhood might be visited by a US Census worker. These Census takers should have a US Census form of ID along with a laptop or handheld device to enter information. The ID should have an expiration date and the Department of Commerce watermark. However, we all know ID's can be forged and almost everyone can get ahold of a laptop. So, just how do you know if they are for real? Well, since they want information from you it's only fair your get information from them.

1. Legitimate or not, don't let the person get close enough so they can block the shutting of your door. If you come to the door and they are standing close to it, tell them to back away so you can open the door. If they don't comply, don't open the door and call the cops.

2. Ask them to see their ID, other than the US Census ID. If they refuse or do not have one, ask them for a door hanger which should have information like the US Census office phone numbers for your state. If they refuse or make threats, do not argue with them. Shut the door and call your local police department. Make sure to give a good description of what the person looks like and any identifying marks or accents. If possible keep an eye on where the person walks off to and let the cops know that as well.

3. The person showed the ID and all is well until they start saying things like "I need your full social security number", "I need to verify the type of work you do, tell me the name of the bank and the number of the account you deposit your pay check into", or "I need to verify you have a credit history, I need to see a credit card or you need to give a credit card number so I can check". If at anytime you feel uncomfortable answering a question you think maybe too personal or information which is not needed for a census stop the questioning. Tell them you need verification that the questions they are asking are valid for the census and you intend to call the US Census office in your state to find out. If they try to push the issue, make threats, start to become aggravated, or become nervous shut the door call the cops. Let the cops know what happened and why you think the person may be a fraud.

4. US Census workers are told not to ask to come into your house to conduct their survey. If the person asks to use your phone, bathroom, or to step inside your house to get out of the sun tell them no. You do not need to give a reason. If they persist close the door and call the cops.

The US Census Bureau already put out a statement that they do not conduct the census via the internet. They will not be sending out emails or allowing people to submit census information through their website or any website.

1. If you receive an email claiming you need to submit your US Census information, then you already know it's bogus. Do not click on any links and do not reply. Forward the email to ITSO.Fraud.Reporting@census.gov.

2. If you find a website claiming to be set up so you can provide Census information, do not fill anything out, and do not click on anything from the site. Copy the URL from your URL address bar and sent it to ITSO.Fraud.Reporting@census.gov.

The US Census will be contacting people via phone but beware: normally they will contact you if you have already filled out the official form and they have a question about answers on the form or if you didn't fill out the form.

1. Ask the person to identify themselves, ask them for the US Census office number, and write down the information. You don't have to answer any questions at the time but you can request to be contacted again after you have verified their information. If you want to verify and have access to a computer that is on line. Verify the phone number they gave you through google if it's not number for your states US Census office hang up and turn them in.

2. If they ask questions not related to the census like "I need your full social security number.", "I need to verify the type of work you do, tell me the name of the bank and the number of the account you deposit your pay check into.", "I need to verify you have a credit history I need to see a credit card or you need to give a credit card number so I can check". If at anytime you feel uncomfortable answering a question you think maybe too personal or information which is not needed for a census stop the questioning. Tell them you need verification that the questions they are asking are valid for the census and you intend to call the US Census office in your state to find out. If they try to push the issue, make threats, start to become aggravated, or become nervous hang up call your local US Census office and report them. If a number showed up on your caller ID report the number as well.

The US Census Bureau did mail out a lot of forms, but there are people out there who will try to pass off their scam forms as the real deal. The best way to avoid this is to familiarize yourself with how the form should look, what questions are on the form and to which address the form is suppose to be mailed back.

The Questions on the Form - 2010 Census

The Questions on the Form (Text Version) - 2010 Census

If the contents of the mailing look suspicious call your local US Census office or look it up on The US Census Websiste

Lastly, many people who have access to the internet know how to get this information quickly. The people who perpetrate scams know this and they will choose their targets accordingly. Unfortunately, the main target group is senior citizens. If you are concerned for an elderly relative who may live on their own with no internet access or live in a 55 and over community print out this blog post and/or the information from the US Census website.

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