Avoiding Fraudulent Activity and Protecting Your Privacy

For the first time in the nation’s history, the U.S. Census Bureau will conduct the decennial electronically. Using online forms offers many benefits, including significant cost savings. However, many people have concerns about privacy and the possibility of fraudulent activity.

To combat potential fraud during the 2020 census, the bureau is developing plans to prevent a wide range of problem scenarios, such cyberattacks that crash the online questionnaire, fake websites impersonating the Census Bureau, or hacking of phones, laptops and other electronic devices used by the bureau’s employees. 

Phishing Scams

The Census Bureau urges residents to beware of “phishing” scams. Phishing is the criminal act of trying to get your information — user names, passwords, social security numbers, and bank account or credit card account details — by pretending to be an entity you trust.  Phishing e-mails often direct you to a website that looks real, but is fake, and may be infected with malware.

How To Protect Yourself

The Census Bureau is taking many measures to protect your information, but there are also ways you can help protect yourself. First, remember that official census workers will never ask for:

  • Your full Social Security number
  • Money or donations
  • Anything on behalf of a political party
  • Bank or credit card account numbers
  • Your mother’s maiden name

If you get an email request that you’re not sure about:

  • Do not reply, do not click on any links and do not open any attachments.
  • Forward the e-mail or website URL to the Census Bureau at ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov
  • Delete the message. The Census Bureau will investigate and notify you of the findings.

If you get postal mail that causes you to suspect a scam:

  • Check that the return address is Jeffersonville, Indiana.
  • Call the Regional Office for your state (using the numbers below) to verify whether it is legitimate. 

If you live in Kansas and have questions about a person claiming to work for the Census Bureau, call the Denver Regional Office for verification at 1-800-852-6159.

If you live in Missouri, call the Chicago Regional Office for verification at 1-800-865-6384.

To verify that a person calling you or your business is legitimate, you can also call or email the National Processing Center.

How can you recognize an official U.S. Census Bureau employee?

If someone visits your home claiming to be a Census Bureau employee, you can verify this by entering his or her name into the Census Bureau Staff Search.

In addition, any official Census Bureau field representative:

  • Must present an ID Badge, which contains a photograph of field representative, Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.
  • Will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the regional office phone number for verification, if asked.
  • Will provide you with a letter from the Director of the Census Bureau on U.S. Census Bureau letterhead.
  • May be carrying a laptop and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo.