Beware of potential 2010 Census scams

Published 3:28 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you offer some tips on how seniors can guard against 2010 census scams? Ive heard that there are a lot of potential scams going on and I want to protect myself.

Suspicious Senior

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Dear Suspicious,

Unfortunately, scams have become a persistent problem when the U.S. Census Bureau does its once-a-decade count of the U.S. population. Heres what you should know.

Fill Out Your Census

In mid-March, nearly every U.S. household received a 2010 Census form in the mail. If you havent already done so, you need to answer the 10 questions (it only takes a few minutes) and mail the form back in the postage-paid envelope provided. If you did not receive your census form or if youve misplaced it, call the census questionnaire assistance center (866-872-6868) by April 21 and they will mail you another one.

Watch For Scams

While census participation is very important and required by law, you also need to be vigilant of census-linked scams. This is especially important for seniors who tend to be prime targets. The Better Business Bureau warns against e-mail scams as well as con artist masquerading as census workers who will try to solicit your personal financial information. Here are some tips that will help you recognize a census scam and what you can do to protect yourself.

Guard Your Info.

Dont give out your personal or financial information. The Census Bureau or a legitimate census worker will never ask for your Social Security number or any information regarding credit cards, banks or financial accounts. Nor will they ask for money or a donation. If youre asked for any of these, whether it be via phone, mail, e-mail or in person, its a scam and should be reported to your regional census office. See or call 800-923-8282 for contact information.

Check Workers ID

If you dont mail in your completed census form, a census taker will visit your home sometime between May and July to fill out the questionnaire for you. A legitimate census taker must present an identification badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. The taker will also carry a hand-held device thats used to take your information, a canvas census bag and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see a photo ID and their badge before answering any questions. However, you should never invite anyone you dont know into your home. The census taker will only ask you the questions that appear on the questionnaire your name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, type of residence and number of people living with you. They will not ask for sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security or credit card number. If you dont trust their ID, close the door and call your regional or local census office to verify that person is an actual census worker.

Avoid Phony E-mails

The Census Bureau is not conducting any part of the census on the Internet, nor will it send e-mails regarding the census. So ignore any e-mails that direct you to a census-related Web site. No matter how legitimate the e-mail and Web site look, its a scam looking to acquire your Social Security number or other private financial information. And, dont reply to the e-mail or open any attachment. Attachments could contain viruses that could infect your computer. Forward the e-mail or Web site address to the Census Bureau at Then delete the message.

Savvy Tips: For more information on the 2010 Census survey and how to guard against potential census-related scams, visit

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.