Beware the 2020 Census Scam!

2020 Census form with hand holding pen

Every 10 years, the Census Bureau counts every person living in the U.S. The process won’t start until mid-March 2020, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is already warning of scammers trying to con you out of your sensitive information. Here are some key things to keep in mind to avoid getting scammed in the 2020 census.

How will the 2020 Census invite people to respond?

A total of 95 percent of households will receive their census invitation in the mail. The remaining 5 percent will receive an invitation to respond via personal delivery, or will be personally counted by a census taker.

Households that do not respond to the mailed invitation will receive reminder letters, postcards and questionnaires until they do respond. If they still have not participated in the census by May 2020, a census taker will visit the household to count them in person. If no one answers the door, the census taker will continue trying to reach them in person, or by phone, up to six times.

What kind of questions will I find on the census form? 

The census questionnaire will focus on the amount of people living in the household at the time the form is completed. You will also need to note each household member’s sex, age, race, ethnicity, relationships to the other residents, phone number and whether you own or rent the home. There will not be a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

How can I determine if a census taker is really a scammer? 

You can verify a census taker’s legitimacy by asking to see their required photo ID. Authentic ID will include a U.S. Department of Commerce seal and an expiration date. You can also ask for their supervisor’s contact information and/or call the census regional office phone number to verify your census taker’s authenticity.

The most suspicious behavior a scammer will exhibit is asking intrusive and inappropriate questions. A census taker will never ask you:

  • If you are a U.S. citizen
  • For your full Social Security number
  • For credit card numbers or account information
  • For a donation
  • To pledge your support for a political party
  • For personal information, like your mother’s maiden name

A scammer might also try to reach you by phone. Remember, a census taker will not reach out to you by phone unless you have failed to respond to several mailed invitations and reminders and you have not answered the door when a census taker visited you personally. Be wary of any suspicious questions being asked over the phone. If you have reason to believe you are speaking with a scammer, hang up.

If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to report the incident to a local Census Bureau representative and file a report with the FTC .

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