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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / Safe Census /   Editorial List  

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Safe Census

Starting in 1790, and once every ten years hence, Census workers have been sweeping through the United States in an effort to count its far-flung citizenry.  This is an important practice.  The Census data will be used to allocate more than $300 billion in federal funds every year, as well as determine each stateís number of congressional representatives.  Households are actually required by law to respond to the Census Bureauís request for information.

Many things have changed in the art of census taking over the past 220 years.  Instead of quill pens, todayís Census workers are more likely to utilize handheld computers.  Although I was not around when they took that first poll, I believe that the incidence of fraud and possible identity theft is much more of a problem today than it was in the day of our founding fathers (and mothers).

This is of particular importance to those of us with loved ones living alone and most vulnerable to such skullduggery.  For years, the Better Business Bureau has educated consumers about not giving out personal information over the telephone or to anyone who shows up at their front door.  Yet, as the U.S. Census process begins, BBB advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

During the U.S. Census, households will be contacted by mail, telephone or visited by a U.S. Census worker who will inquire about the number of people living in the house. Unfortunately, people may also be contacted by scammers who are impersonating Census workers in order to gain access to sensitive financial information such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. 

The big question is:  How do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? The Better Business Bureau ( offers the following advice:

  • If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice.  Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions.  However, you should never invite anyone you donít know into your home.

  • Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census.  While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

  • Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home.  However, they will not contact you by e-mail, so be on the lookout for e-mail scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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Gary Barg

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