How to avoid a Census Bureau scam

Back in February, as part of the Herald’s weekly Police Blotter column, we brought you the story of a West Seattle family who was burglarized while away at work and school. The victim told police he had recently received two phone calls from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Census Bureau who asked very peculiar questions like when he and his wife go to work and when they are away from home. After the burglary, the victim put two and two together and believed he had been the victim of a scam.

Weeks later, Linda Clark with the Los Angeles Region U.S. Census Bureau contacted the Herald with valuable information on how to identify Census workers and learn the types of questions they might ask.

First off, contrary to what many of us may have thought, the Census Bureau doesn’t sit idly by, waiting for the next 10 year mark to do the big count. Instead, according to Clark, they “conduct surveys of households and businesses every month, quarter and year,” so it’s not unheard of to hear from them at any time.

Clark said the Census Bureau (and their census takers calling on the phone or knocking on the door) encourages validation of their employees. They all carry identification cards (for those you speak to face to face), but to further verify there are two different numbers to call:

If you want to verify a Census Bureau employee who calls you, contact the Bureau at 1-800-642-0469. You can also call this number to verify a census form or if you have questions about a survey.

To verify a Census Bureau employee who visited your home or business, contact the Los Angeles Regional Office at 1-800-992-3530 or email at Los.Angeles.Regional.Office@census.gov.

As a final note, Clark wished to “assure people that questions are asked only to produce statistics and no individual, household, or business is ever identified.” .” They do not ask for full social security numbers, ask for donations, send requests on behalf of a political party, or request any sort of financial information like PIN codes and passwords.

For more information, please visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Are You In a Survey?” website.

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