PHOENIX (3/15/10)--The 2010 census officially gets under way this week--most forms arrive in mailboxes today through Wednesday. But expect con artists to exploit this once-every-10-years event by getting you to let your guard down and divulge personal information to impersonators (AZCentral.com
March 3). Legitimate census workers go door-to-door from the end of April to July to capture information from households that fail to mail back the form. Crooks know this and will attempt to collect information from you that’s not
required by the census--personal information that could lead to identity theft. Take the census seriously, fill out the form, and mail it back. But don’t get taken by impersonators with smooth tactics. Know the five signs that point to a census scam:
* “Please verify your Social Security number.” Legitimate census takers don’t ask for this. In fact, there are just 10 simple questions on the form—that’s it. And a question about your Social Security number isn’t one of them. * “We need your credit union or bank account number.” No, they don’t. None of the census' 10 questions asks for financial data (MarketWatch.com Feb. 27). And the Census Bureau will never ask you for your PIN, passwords, or similar access information for credit cards or financial accounts. * “Please fill out your census form by replying to this e-mail or visiting this website.” That’s a sure sign it’s a scam, because the Census Bureau never will contact you by e-mail or ask you to answer questions on a website. * “Of course I’m a census taker--you know about the census, right?” Legitimate census takers carry official badges and will give you the phone number of the local Census Bureau office so you can verify identities. To be safe, find your regional census office phone number at Census.gov/regions and call to verify identities. * “In cooperation with the census, we’re asking for donations to a local charity.” Legitimate census takers don’t collect money for charities or political parties, according to the Census Bureau.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a census scam, contact your regional Census Bureau office immediately. Don’t reply to suspicious e-mails or click on links within e-mails that portend to be from the Census Bureau. Instead, forward the e-mail or website URL to ITSO.Fraud.Reporting@census.gov. Then delete the message. The Census Bureau will investigate and notify you of its findings.