Consumer Law

Scam Alert: 2010 US Census

The first phase of the 2010 US Census is beginning. Workers have already begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 census workers will count everyone in the US for gathering information about every person living at each address including their name, age, gender, race and other information.

What Is the 2010 Census?

Since 1790, every 10 years there's a count of everyone living in the US, including, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the island territories. The next census is in 2010. All residents of the US will be counted. This includes people of all ages, citizens and non-citizens.

What Is the Purpose of the Census?

Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution mandates a count of everyone residing in the US. The population totals determine each state's Congressional representation. Information from the census is used to distribute Congressional seats to states. It's also used to make decisions about what community services to provide and to distribute federal funds to state governments. The numbers also affect funding for each community and help inform decision makers about how communities are changing.

How Will the Census Take Place?

Census questionnaires will be mailed or delivered to every household by March 2010. The questions will ask you to provide accurate information for your household as of April 1, 2010. The Census Bureau must count everyone and submit state population totals to the President by December 31, 2010. Households that still don't respond will be called or visited by a census worker.

Should I Be Cautious about Anything?

You should be careful about giving personal information to people claiming to be census workers. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued several guidelines. BBBs gather and report information on business reliability and alert the public to fraud against consumers and businesses. They also provide information on ethical business practices, and resolve disputes between consumers and businesses. The BBB advises people to be cooperative, but at the same time to be cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. Attempts to scam people have already been reported in Illinois, when senior citizens received letters from the "census bureau" asking for credit card information. The important question is - how do you tell the difference between a US Census worker and an impostor?

The BBB offers the following advice:

  • If you are visited by a US Census worker, 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
  • Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Don't give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone - even if they claim they need it for the census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it won't ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers
  • Census workers won't ask for any donations
  • Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home. They will not contact you by e-mail. Don't click on a link or open any attachments in an email that is supposedly from the US Census Bureau
  • If you do receive an e-mail or find a Web site that you suspect is falsely representing the Census Bureau, forward the e-mail or Web site URL to the Census Bureau at
  • What about My Privacy?

    Your privacy will not be compromised. Federal law protects the confidentiality of all personal information gathered during the census process and the Census Bureau has privacy guidelines that they must follow. The Census Bureau is serious about protecting your privacy and has appointed its first-ever chief privacy officer to ensure all citizens' privacy and information is protected.

    For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit For more information on the 2010 US Census, visit

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