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.
What do economic stimulus packages, Cash For Clunkers, tax refunds, and the U.S. Census all have in common?
Besides the obvious fact that they’re all related to da gubbermint, they’re also things that people have turned (or could turn) into scams.
The 2010 Census is already in its early stages, and workers are already going door-to-door to verify addresses. However, you know as well as I do that there are also going to be some con artists out there, trying to get personal information for fraudulent use.
Ask any Census worker to show you his or her identification and badge before you answer questions. They will not ask for your Social Security number, credit card or bank account information, or donations. Anyone attempting to get this information from you is attempting to commit fraud. Politely refuse to answer their questions, close and lock your door, then contact police immediately. A Census worker will also never ask to enter your home.
Also, Census workers will only contact you by telephone, in person or by U.S. Mail (meaning envelopes-with-paper-in-them). They will not use email in any circumstance. Immediately delete any emails that claim to be from the U.S. Census.
Why don’t they use email, and why will they never do so?
Well, it’s because of people like me. I have six email addresses that I can think of offhand. There are probably another five or six that I don’t even remember. One of them is just so I can use Google Reader, and another is a leftover from an old blog, but my work email and two out of my three home emails are pretty active. Within a single household, there might be twenty email addresses, including young children. Can you imagine the mess that would ensue if they tried to use email to conduct a Census? There would be panic on a heretofore unseen level when the results came out that the population had rocketed up to 2 billion people over the last ten years.
The core information in this post was taken from “Be cautious about giving info to census workers.“