As Census Forms Arrive, Officials Warn of Possible Scams

Questionnaires for the 2010 Census should be everyone's mailboxes by the end of this week. Census officials are warning people to not be fooled by scammers who will try to take advantage of the "once-a-decade" head count to steal personal information. David Pitman reports.

The 2010 Census forms consist of just ten questions, including your name, age, and gender.  Eduardo Guity with the Census says the forms also ask for some very basic demographic information.

"If you own your home, or if you rent.  How many people live in your homes.  You will also be asked about race and ethnicity."

The Census also wants a phone number, just in case it needs clarification of any of your written responses.  But Guity says the 10-year survey will not ask anything about your salary or whether you're a legal resident or citizen.    Nor will you be prompted to provide any social security or driver's license numbers.

"In light of the fact that these are the types of questions that may lead to identity theft or other types of circumstances where a person might be leery of participating in the Census."

Guity says the goal is to make sure every one is counted — which is crucial in determining how many representatives Texas gets in the U.S. House, and how much the state receives in federal funding for a whole host of programs.

Guity says there are a couple of easy ways to spot scams masquerading as the 2010 Census.  One is through unsolicited emails, which Guity says may be infected with viruses.

"The Census does absolutely nothing on the internet.  So if you see something that appears official on the internet, don't open it."

Another red flag for a possible scam, according to Guity, is if someone claiming to be from the Census shows up at your doorstep too soon after the questionnaire arrives.

"The Census Bureau staff will not be in massive operations until sometime after April 15, early, early May — in order to be knocking on peoples' doors."

Census workers will only visit households that did not return the Census forms.  Guity concedes that, in the age of the Internet, people have become more sophisticated in spotting scams.  But he says children, the elderly, and people who may not be fluent in American customs or the language, are the most vulnerable.  For more tips on how to recognize and report Census-related scams, visit www.census.gov/survey_participants/related_information/phishing_email_scams_bogus_census_web_sites.html.

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David Pitman

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