February 5, 2010

Census Calls for Cautious Cooperation

Congress is spending $2.5 million this year to advertise the U.S. Census during the Super Bowl. This could result in substantial net savings if the ads (which may reach 45% of all U.S. adults) cause more people to mail back their census forms. Each percentage point increase in the mail response rate prevents an additional $85 million from being spent to find and count those people.

Households are required by law to respond to the Census Bureau’s requests for information, and community associations could face penalties if they unreasonably impede Census work. However, associations and owners should be aware that unscrupulous persons in their area may attempt to falsely pose as Census workers. The Better Business Bureau offers the following useful tips to prevent Census-related fraud:

• If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a hand-held 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. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account number 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 look out 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.