Census Safety – Know Who Is Knocking At Your Door

DoorCriminals are quick to take advantage of something legitimate but obscure to prey on innocent people.  The 2010 Census, currently underway, is no exception. There already have been reports locally and nationally of bogus census-takers preying on people’s unfamiliarity with the census process to take advantage of them.  In this article, we explore a few simple ways to help the census get taken without getting taken in the process.

The Truth About Census-Takers Visting Your Home

Over 140,000 legitimate census workers will visit 145 million addresses nationwide to ask two simple questions. The answers to these questions play an important role in the American legislative system by helping to ensure that communities are fairly represented in the House of Representatives based on their population.

Unfortunately, a number of unscrupulous individuals may attempt to take advantage of this process to gain illicit entry to your home:

On October 19th at 2:00 pm, two men knocked on a door at XXXXX Moreland Avenue and asked the resident to sign a census form.  When the victim stated he was about to leave and didn’t have time the suspects produced a gun and forced their way into the apartment.  Both victims were forced to lie on the ground and had their property taken.  One of the suspects fired one round at the victims, which struck the floor.  Both suspects then fled the area in a waiting vehicle.

Other criminals may attempt to take advantage of this process to obtain information from you that will allow them to steal your identity, such as your social security or bank account numbers, credit card numbers or information about your employment.

Supporting The Census Safely

A legitimate census-taker will always have with them:

  • An identification badge
  • A handheld computer
  • A Census Bureau canvas bag
  • A confidentiality notice

Images of the badge are not released by the Census Bureau for fear they will be duplicated, however, they should look like an official piece of identification from a government agency.

It is not unreasonable to ask to see these things before speaking with a census-taker, and most certainly before opening your door to them.

The only two questions a census-taker should ask are:

  • What is the correct address of this home or housing unit?
  • How many people live here?

Census-takers asking any other questions, especially those pertaining to sensitive information about your identity, may not be legitimate.  However, there are two exceptions worth noting:

  • If your address has been selected to participate in the American Communities Survey, a census-taker may visit to ask additional questions. However, before this occurs you will have received the survey by mail, at least one reminder to complete the survey by mail, and potentially several telephone calls reminding you to complete the survey.
  • Pending legislation in congress would add a third question, “How many residents at this address are not U.S. citizens?” (or similar). There likely will be significant mention in the media if this legislation passes.

Some other things to watch out for:

  • Census-takers only conduct their survey at homes and will never approach you on the street or in a place of business.  Any one attempting to gather census data except at your home likely is not legitimate.
  • Recent legislative action resulted in an organization called ACORN being invalidated as a census-taking organization. Anyone attempting to gather census information who identifies themselves as being an employee or volunteer of ACORN likely is not legitimate.
  • While the U.S. Census Bureau may contact you by visiting your home, calling your home or sending postal mail, they will never contact you via email.  Any email you receive that ostensibly is from the U.S. Census Bureau – especially those requesting any personal information – likely are fraudulent.

If in doubt about the legitimacy of a census-taker visiting your home, call your U.S. Census Bureau Regional Office  and verify the identity of the census-taker. If you feel in any way threatened or intimidated, call 911 immediately.

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