April 1, 2020, is National Census Day, and the Better Business Bureau is warning people to be alert to census scammers.
The U.S. census happens once a decade.
"This year, census takers will be going door to door to retrieve information and BBB is anticipating that scammers may be out in full force, in an attempt to take advantage of those responding to the census," the agency says in a news release.
The BBB says the Census Bureau is likely to have its fair share of imposters, so they're reminding people that there are three main ways to respond to to census: by phone, mail or online.
However, while there are three main ways to respond to the census, you may still see census takers in your neighborhood and possibly knocking on your door. Why? According to the 2020 census website, if you don't respond to the census on your own, census takers are sent to your neighborhood to help make sure you are counted.
"Census takers play a critical role in the 2020 Census," the website states. "In May, they will begin visiting homes that haven't responded to the census to help ensure everyone is counted. These census takers are there to help, and they are legally bound to protect your information."
They may also be in your neighborhood to drop off census materials, to conduct quality checks related to the census or to collect responses for other ongoing Census Bureau surveys, such as the American Community Survey.
It's also important to note that while census takers will be visiting homes in May, they will be visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers and others who live among large groups of people beginning in April.
You can see a timeline of important census dates below.
- January 21: The U.S. Census Bureau starts counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially begins in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay.
- March 12 - 20: Households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.
- March 30 - April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.
- April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you'll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.
- April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people . Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
- May - July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.
- December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.
- March 31: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.
"The Census Bureau may request information through almost all communication outlets, including phone, email, mail, fax and in-person," the BBB says. "And yes, some if the information they ask for can get pretty personal."
However, the Census Bureau will never ask for your full Social Security number, money, donations, anything on behalf of a political party, your full bank or credit account numbers or your mother's maiden name.
The BBB has the following tips so you can avoid being scammed.
- Never give out your social security number. Census takers will never ask for your social security number, bank account number, credit card number, money or donations.
- Census takers will never contact you on behalf of a political party. If someone calls on behalf of a political party that claims to be from the census, hang up.
- Make sure you respond to the census through Census.gov ,the official website they provide. Your regional Census Bureau may also be able to help.
- If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by calling the government agency directly or checking the government agency’s website. Don’t click on any links in an unexpected email – type the official URL into your browser or do a web search to find the right website. Call a trusted phone number other than one provided by the caller to verify the caller’s identity.
- Don’t click, download, or open anything that comes from an anonymous sender. This is likely an attempt to gain access to your personal information or install malware on your computer.
- Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of unsolicited messages that don't contain your name, last digits of your account number or other personalizing information. Do not click on any links. See our tips on avoiding phishing email scams .
- Check BBB ScamTracker for local reports of imposters in your area.
And if a census taker comes to your door, there are several things you can do to verify their identity, according to the BBB.
- Ask to see their ID Badge. Census takers must present a field badge that includes a photograph of themselves, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.
- Census workers will be carrying a Census Bureau laptop or cellphone, as well as a bag with a Census Bureau logo.
- If you still have questions, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact your local police department.
The official website of the Census Bureau is census.gov and the homepage for the 2020 Census is 2020census.gov.