With the arrival of April, the 2010 U.S. Census is officially underway. Texans should quickly complete and return the forms to the Census Bureau. When doing so, residents should be cautious of con artists who are using the program as an opportunity to swindle people out of their hard-earned money – and even their identities.
Recently, we heard from a concerned Texan who received a letter that appeared to be a Census form. The recipient said that the form asked for her Social Security number, which she provided on her completed form.
A few days later, the woman received another Census form – but this form did not ask for her Social Security number. She realized that the first letter was likely a fraudulent attempt to obtain her personal information and steal her identity.
Texans should remember that the official 2010 Census questionnaire asks 10 questions – none of which request personal financial information such as bank or credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.
No official census information will be collected via e-mail, so anyone who receives an e-mail that appears to come from the U.S. Census should be cautious. These are very likely fraudulent e-mails unlawfully seeking recipients’ personal information.
In the coming weeks, Census workers will begin walking door-to-door in residential areas in order to verify certain Census information. Participants should always look for identification from Census takers before opening the door and agreeing to provide personal information. Census Bureau employees will be clearly identified with a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice.
Some Texans may receive an American Community Survey, a legitimate questionnaire that collects statistical data for federal and state government programs. Recipients who have questions about the survey should visit https://ask.census.gov.
Texans who think they may have completed and returned fraudulent census forms should immediately take steps to prevent their identities from getting stolen. Victims should file a report with local law enforcement and contact the credit bureaus to secure a fraud alert. They should also visit the attorney general’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011 for a copy of the Identity Theft Victim’s Kit.