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.