The Census Bureau, like BBB and many other organizations, has its fair share of imposters. And they’re hard to spot! The Census Bureau already asks for such personal information, how are consumers (or businesses) to know how much is too much?

First things first, knowledge is power! It’s helpful to know that the “big” census survey only happens once per decade, usually at the ten-year mark (year ending in zero). The rest of the time, the Census Bureau works to gather data from smaller sub-sections of the population. With 2020 right around the corner, the big one is coming! In mid-March 2020, the Census Bureau will start mailing out (and, in some areas, hand delivering) invitations to participate in the 2020 Census. You should get yours by April 1. You can respond online, by phone, or by mail.

The Bureau may request information through almost all communication outlets, including phone, email, mail, fax and in-person. And yes, some if the information they ask for can get pretty personal! However, the Census Bureau states that they will NEVER ask for your full social security number, money, donations, anything on behalf of a political party, your full bank or credit account numbers, or your mother’s maiden name. Knowing how the Census operates can help you be better prepared when you’re asked to participate. For the full list of questions on the 2020 Census, visit https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions.html.

Scammers may pose as census takers to get your personal information — and then use it to commit identity theft and other frauds. BBB answers questions on how you can identify official census takers.

Q: What should ask for when Census person comes to the door?

A: Verify! Census takers must show a photo ID with the U.S. Department of Commerce seal and an expiration date. Never release any personal information like your full social security or account numbers.

Q: How do I know that the packet I received in the mail is real?

A: Check the return address if contacted by mail. The Census Bureau’s website states that the return address will always be from Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Q: I received a call from a person who says they are with the Census, is this real?

A: Keep in mind, you may receive a call as part of their follow-up and quality control efforts. They also might call if you’re not home when a census taker stops by or when a personal visit is not convenient. Calls will come from one of the Census Bureau’s contact centers or from a field representative. Visit www.census.gov. From their website, you can verify the legitimacy of surveys, find helpful Census related news, questions and contact information.

Q: How can I check on scams about this?

A: Check BBB’s ScamTracker for local reports of imposters in your area. If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative.

If all else fails, contact your regional Census Bureau office at 981-3497. They will be able to verify the legitimacy of any requests.

Do you have a question you would like to submit for this column? Please send to info@acadiana.bbb.org subject line: BBB/DailyIberian.

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