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Census worker or scammer: How to know the difference

Warning signs that a census worker may not be legitimate
Census taker or scammer: How to know the difference
Posted at 9:42 AM, Sep 21, 2020

The census workers are on the streets and may be coming to your home.

After a 4-month pandemic delay, U.S. Census takers are now going door to door, canvassing neighborhoods and visiting homes that have not responded to their mailings.

But these days, when consumers are targeted by so many scams, it is understandable that many people are reluctant to talk.

Earlier this summer, Amy Cheney received a suspicious census call, and was reluctant to answer their questions.

"It showed up as an unknown call, an unknown phone number," she said.

Michael Cook, communications officer at the U.S. Census Bureau, told us how to confirm you are not dealing with an impostor.

He says a real census taker will show you their government photo ID right away.

"The key here is that if someone comes to your home, they will present a census ID, so you can rest assured it is the census," Cook said.

They should also carry a bag or folder with the U.S. Census Bureau logo on it.

Census badge
Census badge

You should also know that when a census worker comes to your door, there are some questions they are going to ask you. But there are also some questions they will never ask you if they are legitimate.

"The Census Bureau will never ask your Social Security Number when it comes to the census," Cook said. "We will also never ask your bank account number."

What census workers will ask:

  • Your name, and names of other people in your home.
  • Your age (birth date).
  • Your race.
  • How many children you have at home.
  • Your home or cell phone number, but only for follow-up questions, if needed.

A more detailed American Community Survey, which targets fewer than 2% of taxpayers each year, will ask questions about your employment and income. But door-to-door workers will not ask those questions.

Amy Cheney was right to be suspicious, because the caller ID should have said US Census, not "unknown number."

If you still have questions? You'll find lots of information at the census website,

That way you stay safe, and you don't waste your money.

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