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Census takers knocking on doors

BBB says be cooperative but also beware of scammers

The next phase of the 2010 Census begins in May and roughly 700,000 Census takers will start knocking on the doors of households that did not return their census form through the mail. The BBB encourages anyone who didn’t return their form in the mail to prepare for a visit from a Census taker by learning what to expect and how to identify scammers.

The goal of the Census is to count every man, woman, and child in the country.  It is a massive undertaking and unfortunately scammers are taking advantage of the situation by sending out bogus Census forms or knocking on doors and asking for sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers.

“The chances are slim that the census taker at your door is a scammer and it is very easy to identify a legitimate employee just by recognizing what they won’t ask or do,” said Ken Vander Meeden, BBB of Western Michigan CEO. “A Census taker will not ask for your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers nor will he or she ask to enter your house for any reason.”

Census takers will visit households that didn’t respond by mail up to three times for a response, each time leaving a door hanger featuring a phone number for residents to call to schedule a visit. It costs the Federal Government, and ultimately the taxpayer, $57 for every visit a Census taker has to make to a household. The BBB encourages everyone to work with the Census and respond promptly.

The BBB answers the following frequently asked questions about receiving a visit from a census taker:

How can I identify a census taker?

First ask to see their ID.  All census workers carry official government badges marked with just their name; they may also have a “U.S. Census Bureau” bag.  If asked, he or she will provide supervisor contact information and/or the Local Census Office phone number for verification. The Census Bureau has also created a video on how to identify a census taker.

What kinds of questions will they ask

The Census taker will ask the following questions:
1. The number of people living in the residence
2. Any additional people that might be living there as of April 1, 2010
3. Whether the residence is owned or rented
4. Telephone number (in case the Census Bureau has follow-up questions)
5. Name
6. Sex
7. Age and date of birth
8. Whether of Hispanic origin
9. Race
10. Whether that person sometimes lives somewhere else

Why might a census taker visit me if I mailed my form back?

Even if you mailed your form back, you might still get a visit or a phone call from a census taker. Reasons include if they are spot-checking for accuracy, have questions about your response or if you mailed your form in late.

Do I have to respond?

Yes.  Your participation in the 2010 Census is vital and required by law. Not only do you have to respond, it’s in your community’s best interest that you take part. By responding, you’ll help your community get its share of more than $400 billion per year in federal funds to help increase job training, improve schools and more.

How safe are my answers?

All census responses are confidential; they are protected by law and not shared with anyone – including other government agencies like Immigration and Naturalization Services.  All census takers have passed an FBI background check, taken an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data.  The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment of up to five years or both.

Will the census taker ask any questions other than what was on the mail-in form?

At any point in time, the Census Bureau is conducting a number of surveys in order to better understand the complexities of our nation.  Therefore, you may be asked to respond to a survey that is not related to the 2010 Census.  The topics include healthcare, employment and the demographics of your household.  Before responding to a survey that claims to be with the Census Bureau, do your research on the Census Bureau’s web site (“Are you in a survey?”) at www.census.gov/survey_participants/.

For more information on the 2010 Census visit 2010census.gov and advice from the BBB on how to avoid scams at http://www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-scams/

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