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Beware of census scams

The scammers are out. But the good news is the Census Bureau is hiring.

By Karen Datko Mar 19, 2010 11:34AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


This week you should find the 2010 census survey in your mailbox. The U.S. census is conducted every 10 years as required by the Constitution. The Constitution mandates that a census be taken every decade to apportion the number of members of the House of Representatives among the states. But the census is also used to apportion federal funding among the states, so completing the census survey is extremely important.


And that's where scam artists enter the picture. Taking advantage of online tools, con artists are busy devising fake census survey forms and other schemes to obtain confidential information that can be used to steal identities or even clean out bank accounts. These ploys vary in form, but one key scam involves phishing e-mail.


Phishing is an attempt by scammers to obtain confidential information by posing as a trustworthy entity in an online communication. Typically, a phishing scam takes the form of an official-looking e-mail asking the recipient to click a link or download a file. In the case of a census scam, the e-mail may ask you to download a census form or click a link to fill out an online census survey.


The U.S. Census Bureau will never initiate contact via e-mail. According to the Census Bureau's Web site:

  • The Census Bureau does NOT conduct the 2010 Census via the Internet.
  • The Census Bureau does not send emails about participating in the 2010 Census.
  • The Census Bureau never:
    • Asks for your full Social Security number.
    • Asks for money or a donation.
    • Sends requests on behalf of a political party.
    • Requests PIN codes, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

If you receive an e-mail purporting to be from the U.S. Census Bureau, do not open it. Instead, the Census Bureau recommends that you take the following steps:

  • If you think it is a bogus email, do not reply or click on any links within the email.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain code that could infect your computer.
  • Forward the email or Web site URL to the Census Bureau at
  • After you forward the email to us, delete the message. You will not receive a confirmation email after forwarding the information to us. However, the Census Bureau will investigate the information and notify you of its findings.

Think you can't be fooled? Which one of the following questions is actually on the official U.S. census survey?

  • A. What is your household's total annual income?
  • B. What is your Social Security number?
  • C. What is the account number for your primary checking account?
  • D. Which presidential candidate did you vote for in 2008?

The correct answer is that none of the above questions is on the census survey. Yes, it was a trick question, but it was designed to underscore the importance of using caution when somebody asks you for personal information. In fact, the 2010 U.S. Census Survey includes just 10 questions. While the survey cannot be completed online, you can see what the questions are on the U.S. Census Bureau Web site.

Finally, if you are looking for work, the U.S. Census Bureau is hiring. You can check out job information by clicking here.


Related reading at The Dough Roller:



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