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Watch Out Wednesday: Fake census texts, emails

Census memo warns citizenship question will hurt 'quality' of 2020 count
Posted at 4:00 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 09:09:20-04

TULSA, Okla. — With so many scams running rampant, how do you know when you should respond to an email or text you might think is suspicious?

Federal agencies like the Census Bureau now use texts and emails for surveys which they say are important.

Texts and emails claiming to be from the Census Bureau could both ask you to click on a link to respond to an important survey on the COVID-19 crisis.

"I don't know what to think about the requests for information I recently received, which are supposedly from the Census Bureau," David says. "They look awfully fishy to me. We're always told to be careful before clicking on anything and getting scammed."

David asked us not to include his last name to protect his privacy.

The 2 News Oklahoma Problem Solvers checked with the Census Bureau, and found out in this case, that both the email and text David received are legitimate. They’re sent to a few households every week.

“It’s a sample, so it’s not everybody, only selected housing units are selected, it’s the address, not the person, that's selected,” says Vicki McIntire, Assistant Regional Director.

The particular survey in this case, is the Household Pulse Survey, used to gather information on the impact of Covid-19 on households across the country, both socially and economically. For texts, the survey uses the number 39242, just like the one David received, and emails asking you to respond to a survey are sent from the official @census.gov domain.

Any links included in a Census Bureau email will direct you to an official federal government website ending in .gov, and if you don’t respond to the texts or emails, the Census Bureau says you may receive up to three follow-up reminders, to respond, but they are not specific on what happens if you don’t.

The bureau says never share your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or any bank or credit card numbers. They won’t ask for that type of information.

Don’t trust any calls you receive out of the blue, even if the caller ID says they’re from the Census Bureau.

"In addition to conducting the decennial census count, the Census Bureau conducts various surveys that study households, businesses, schools, hospitals, and more," the Census Bureau says. "These statistics deliver valuable information for local officials and organizations who provide resources and services to your community."

A household or business may be selected to participate in a survey. The U.S. Census Bureau randomly selects a household or business through a process of scientific sampling. We collect information from a smaller group to produce estimates for the entire population.

Responses to a survey represent a household or business and others and cannot be replaced by simply selecting a different household or business. The answers provided are used to create statistics about the people, places, and economy of the United States. All the information you provide to the Census Bureau is strictly confidential and protected and collected solely for statistical purposes.

To read more about a particular survey's purpose and significance, you can search the Census Bureau's list of surveys.

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