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Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau collects personal data about the people who live in the United States. The government uses census data to make important decisions about funding and congressional representation. Scammers, however, may use the opportunity to try to get your personal information for fraudulent reasons. Know what to look for to tell the difference between legitimate census inquiries and those that are scams.

How to Spot a Scam

Census workers are permitted to ask for very specific information. If the conversation veers toward any of the following subjects, it’s a red flag that the person you’re speaking with may not be a valid census worker:

  • Credit card or financial account numbers or related information
  • Donations or political contributions
  • Your full Social Security Number
  • Your mother’s maiden name

You can also look for signs that the people and materials presented are authentic and U.S. Census Bureau approved.

  • Make sure that any website you visit has the prefix “https” and “.gov” extension.
  • Don’t reply to emails claiming to be from a census worker or the census bureau. The census uses the United States Postal Service (USPS) to invite people to participate in the census.
  • Mail that arrives at your house from the U.S. Census Bureau should have a return address of Jeffersonville, Indiana.
  • Census workers who knock on your door should have a U.S. Census ID badge with a picture of the census taker, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. Ask to see one before answering questions.

What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Targeted

If you think you may be the target of a census scam, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and others.

  • If you’ve received census mail that looks suspicious, call the Census Bureau Regional Office of your state to check.
  • If a census taker calls or visits your house, you can call the National Processing Center or use the Census Bureau Staff Search to verify the census worker’s credentials.
  • If you receive an email claiming to be part of the census, don’t click on any links or open any attachments. Forward the email to and delete it from your inbox.

Don’t let scammers keep you from being counted! Participating in the census is required by law—knowing what to look for can help you avoid scams and ensure your household is one of the millions to be included in the 2020 U.S. Census.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.