This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Census takers will not be able to visit neighborhoods door-to-door to request survey responses as they did during previous counts. Instead, Census responses are now being requested online through 2020Census.gov and by telephone. This situation has opened up a world of opportunity for scammers posing as government Census officials and taking advantage of the current crisis to trick people into giving up personally identifying information.
“We encourage every citizen to fill out the 2020 Census, but to be extremely wary of Census-related fraud,” says Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Metropolitan New York. “The safest ways to respond are to contact the Census directly through their website at 2020Census.gov; by phone at a number posted on the Census website; by mail in response to an official printed Census Bureau survey; or through the web address provided in an official Census mailing you may have received at home.”
Knowing how the Census Bureau operates can help you distinguish between legitimate invitations to participate and ones that are probably fraudulent.
The Census Bureau might request information through almost all communication outlets, including phone, email, mail, or fax. However, the Census Bureau states that they will not send unsolicited emails requesting participation in the 2020 Census. Emails claiming to be from the Census Bureau may be ‘phishing’ attempts to obtain personal information, and should be viewed with great caution.
Additionally, since in-person visits by Census Bureau field representatives were suspended effective March 18 through April 15 and likely beyond, anyone going door-to-door requesting personal information during that time frame is almost certainly an impostor.