TULSA, Okla. — Most scammers use confusion to prey on targets, and there's plenty of uncertainty when it comes to census surveys, which the federal government requires people to fill out.
Many people are used to answering the federal census once every ten years, but the government also requires people to answer more questions every month to get fresh information between those main census surveys.
The process confuses some, and that's when scammers pounce. Charles contacted the 2 News Oklahoma Problem Solvers to warn others about those scams.
"A person came to our door, saying he was with the census bureau," Charles said. "It caught me by surprise, and I had already given him some of our information before I because suspicious and closed the door."
The census bureau said he did the right thing by closing the door. The bureau said census schemes are making the rounds more often. The bureau doesn't want those scams to scare people away from answering the legitimate surveys that are sent to a few households every month.
"It's a sample, so it's not everybody, only selected housing units are selected, and it's address, not the person, that's selected," Vicki McIntire, Census Bureau Regional Assistant Director said.
In most cases, those surveys are mailed through the postal service, and can be filled out and returned by mail, or can be done on-line through an official link that's mailed to you. If you don't respond, you could get a knock on the door.
"And if you don't, then we will send someone to your house to collect the data," McIntire said.
The census bureau advised:
- never share your social security number, mother's maiden name, or any bank or credit card numbers
- Bureau will not ask for that type of information.
- don't trust emails claiming to be from the census bureau. The agency typically uses mail to invite folks to fill out its surveys.
- don't trust any calls, even if caller ID says the call is from the census bureau.
So how can you tell the difference between a real census survey that you are required to fill out, and a fake and a scam?
Follow these tips to ensure that your personal information stays safe:
- Verify that the study is legitimate. Check the survey name on the Census Bureau's list of surveys.
- If someone comes to your home and claims to be a census worker, verify that they work for the Census Bureau.
- Look up the employee's name in the Census Bureau staff directory.
- Ask to see their badge. A Census Bureau badge has a picture of the field agent, a Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
- Follow these tips to help you spot census scams, so you don’t become a victim.
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