The Census Bureau is going to contact you in one of two ways this year (2010):
- By mailing a form to you.
- If you don’t send that back, by visiting you in person.
Notice what’s missing here: email. That’s because they’re just not going to contact you in this way. There is no possible way to fill out a Census form online.
This short piece from CNN says pretty much that, but I always feel like these articles don’t quite go far enough. For example, “If you receive an e-mail claiming to be from the census, it’s probably a scam.”
No! No “probably!” Is! Is a scam!
I don’t know why they feel they have to leave that little sliver of possibility there. Language like that is what makes people think, “Well I heard this was probably a scam, but maybe it’s not, so let’s click on it!”
There is no way for the Census Bureau to conduct a census using email or a website. Too many people and households have multiple email addresses for that to ever work. What if all four people in one house answered that four people lived there? Suddenly, the population quadruples.
So, if you get an email that says it’s from the Census Bureau, it’s fraudulent. End of story. I’m not even leaving that door a little bit open.
Does this make me a better source than CNN? Possibly. Does that make me immodest? Maybe. Does it give you a foolproof way to avoid census-based phishing? Definitely.
I heard an advertisement on the radio just yesterday, recruiting people who’d like to work part-time as census-takers for the 2010 Census. It gave a phone number and a website to contact them. Since it used a “.gov” domain, I know the ad was legitimate.
I also know that every single thing the government tries to do is almost immediately used by criminals to mount some sort of scam. See also: Social Security, USPS jobs, economic stimulus funding, tax returns and just about anything else you can think of.
So consider this a preemptive strike: somebody, very soon, is going to start running a “Census Bureau Jobs” scam.
If you get an email offering you a job as a census-taker, just delete it. It won’t be legitimate. Neither will any newspaper ads that direct you to someone who wants you to pay for information on these jobs (like the old Postal Service jobs scam).
There are only three ways to get the official information, and they all involve contacting the Bureau directly:
- Online: visit http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/. See that “.gov” at the end? That means it’s a legit US government website.
- Call 1-866-861-2010
- Contact your local Census Office. This information is available at the above website, so it’s sort of a repeat of #1.
I haven’t even heard anything about anyone using Census Bureau jobs as the basis for a scam yet, but I know it will happen.
So, now you know in advance. Now that’s vigilance!