April 1, 2020, is Census Day — the due date for Americans to take part in the decennial national headcount.
Of course, scammers will use the census as another opportunity to con you out of your personal information and then your money.
Census scammers may try to contact you by phone, email, regular mail or home visit, or direct you to phony websites, seeking personal and financial information.
Invitations to respond to the census will be mailed to U.S. households in March. Responses to the census questions may be submitted online or via mail or telephone. By May, census workers will begin visiting or contacting households that have not yet responded.
No genuine census survey or agent can ask for money, or for your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. They also won’t threaten jail time if you don’t answer their questions. Any of these is a sure sign that a supposed census taker is phishing for ways to steal your identity, money or possessions.
Be especially watchful for impostors this spring, when the actual Census Bureau will be sending out reminders to fill out your form and following up in person at households that don’t respond.
Tips to spot census scams:
ï Verify that a census taker who comes to your home is legitimate. They should have a Census Bureau photo ID badge, and a copy of the letter the bureau sent you.
ï A supposed census taker threatens you with arrest. Taking part in the census is required by law, but you can’t be imprisoned.
ï Check that a census mailing has a return address of Jeffersonville, IN, the site of the National Processing Center. If it’s from somewhere else, it’s a scam.
ï Check the web address of any supposed census website. Make sure it has census.gov in the address and look for https:// or a lock symbol in the browser window.
ï Don’t give your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or bank or credit card numbers to someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau. Genuine census representatives will never ask for this information.
ï Don’t reply, click links or open attachments in a suspicious census email. The agency almost always makes contact by mail. Contact the bureau’s National Processing Center or the regional office to verify the validity of census communications.
ï Don’t trust caller ID — scammers can use “spoofing” tools to make it appear they’re calling from a real Census Bureau number. Call the National Processing Center at 800-523-3205, 800-642-0469 or 800-877-8339 (TDD/TTY) to verify that a phone survey is legitimate.
Besides census scams, there are a number of other government impostor scams in which criminals pose as representatives of agencies such as the IRS and Social Security. In 2019, impostor scams were the most common form of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by North Dakotans.
AARP North Dakota has volunteers trained to give small group presentations to help protect North Dakotans from fraud and scams. If an organization or service club in your community would like to host a scam presentation, contact us by phone at 866-554-5383 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.