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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2020 > Answer Only the Real Government Census, Not Scams

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Answer Only the Real Government Census, Not Scams

Every 10 years, the U.S. government counts each person living in the country. By April 1 of this year, every home across the nation will have received an invitation from the U.S. Census Bureau to participate in the 2020 census. With this in mind, it is important to understand what to expect and to be on the lookout for potential scams attempting to steal money or personal information.

In March, the U.S. Census Bureau will send invitations via the postal mail to households across the country requiring participation in the national census. Once you have received an invitation, you are required to respond either online, by phone or by mail. This is the first year people will have the option to respond to the census online.

In May, the U.S. Census Bureau will start following up in person with non-responsive households. The census employees will attempt to conduct the census up to six times, each time leaving a door hanger with information about who to call to schedule a visit.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s official website for the census,, highlights ways to avoid possible scams or frauds that try to exploit the census. To protect yourself from potential online or phone scams, be aware that the U.S. Census Bureau will never ask for:
  • Your full Social Security number;
  • Your bank account, credit card numbers or passwords;
  • Money or donations;
  • Anything dealing with political parties.
Click here to view all of the questions asked in the 2020 census. The personal information you furnish is kept confidential under federal law and is only used for statistical purposes.

If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 census, it will only be because your home has not yet responded by phone or online. There are steps you can take to verify the person’s identity. The individual:
  • Must present a valid ID badge that includes their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date;
  • May carry a Census Bureau phone, laptop and/or a bag with a Census Bureau logo;
  • If asked, must provide you with supervisor contact information and/or regional office phone number for verification; and
  • If asked, must provide you with a letter from the Director of the Census Bureau on the U.S. Census Bureau letterhead.
If you are visited by a census worker at home, know that they are trained to conduct the census without needing to actually go inside your home.

Someone from the U.S, Census Bureau may call you for follow-up purposes or to clarify a response. Click here for information on how to verify the call you have received is legitimate. As is the case with all phone calls, do not rely on caller ID since many scammers use spoofing technology, which allows them to put any phone number on your caller ID display.

If you suspect fraud or have specific questions about the census, call 800-923-8282 and ask to speak to a local representative from the U.S. Census Bureau.

If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact your local police department.

In addition to the 10-year census, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the American Community Survey (ACS), throughout each year, sending surveys to a random sample of addresses in every state. This survey is conducted primarily online, but non-respondents are mailed a paper copy to complete about two weeks after the email is sent. Phone calls and in-person interviews are also ways to conduct the survey for those who do not complete the online ACS. To verify the legitimacy of an ACS, Ohioans can contact the Census Bureau through its Philadelphia Regional Office at 800-262-4236 from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.