Identity thieves are using several different scams posing as census works to trick people into giving up their personal information.
Here are some suggestions from the US Census Bureau on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Never respond to email.
The Census Bureau will never send you an unsolicited email. They will only contact you by phone, mail, or on your doorstep. Don't click on links or download an attachment in an email, if you don't know the sender or didn't request the information.
Never click on unknown links or attachments.
Even if it appears you know the sender, it's still a good practice not to click on anything within an email. Instead, it's easy to go to the census bureau website on your own. Make sure the web address reads "HTTPS://" and has the padlock icon in the address bar.
Verify the legitimacy of a survey.
Keep in mind that the Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card information, passwords, citizenship status, political party information, or for money or donations. You also can contact your state's Census Bureau Regional Office to verify the legitimacy of a survey.
Verify a census taker is legitimate if you have doubts.
If someone at your door claims to be a census taker, you can call the Census Bureau to verify their name is in the Census Bureau's online staff directory. This is easy to do and it can give you reassurance.
Remember the purpose of the census.
There's no reason a legitimate census would need to gather your sensitive personal information.
Census results help determine the amount of federal funds that should be given to local communities for schools, roads, and other public services. Results from the 2020 census also will help determine your state's political representation and its number of seats in Congress.
Never share your Social Security number or other sensitive data.
Sensitive data like your Social Security number, bank account information, or passwords have nothing to do with the purpose of the census. It's a good idea never share your Social Security number or other sensitive information unless it's absolutely required.
While the census questionnaire will ask for some personal information, it's limited. In contrast, scammers will likely seek information beyond what the census collects.
While it's always important to be aware of scams, it's good to know that most census scams only come around every 10 years.
Avoiding Fraud and Scams
The U.S. Census Bureau is committed to making the 2020 Census quick, easy, and safe for all participants. Here are some tips to help you stay safe.
Staying Safe at Home
If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 Census, you can do the following to verify their identity:
- First, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
- If you still have questions about their identity, you can call 844-330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative.
Census Bureau Communications
To ensure everyone is counted in the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau has updated their communications strategy to include email outreach in areas where many homes have not yet responded. Official Census Bureau emails will be sent from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Census Bureau will occasionally reach out to households to ask questions about their responses to the 2020 Census or their experience completing the questionnaire. The goal is to ensure that no person is left out of the census or counted in more than one place.
If you're not sure if the communication you received is legitimate, contact the US Census Bureau.
Avoiding Scams Online
Phishing is a criminal act in which someone tries to get your information by pretending to be an entity that you trust. Phishing emails often direct you to a website that looks real but is fake—and may be infected with malware. A key way to identify scam websites is to look at the website address; if you think it may not be legitimate, don't click on any links.
All valid Census Bureau websites will always have ".gov" at the end. 2020census.gov provides key information about the 2020 Census and how to respond. 2020census.gov will direct you to my2020census.gov to respond.
Further, during the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask for:
- Your Social Security number.
- Your bank account or credit card numbers.
- Anything on behalf of a political party.
- Money or donations.
In addition, the Census Bureau will not contact you on behalf of a political party.
Reporting Suspected Fraud
If you suspect fraud, call 844-330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact security or if you live off campus, your local police department.
For more information on scams and avoiding fraud, visit the US Census Bureau website.