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Tips For Avoiding Census Related Fraud

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(US Census Bureau)
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Scams where criminals pretend to be representing federal agencies continue to target large numbers of Americans, and with the upcoming launch of the 2020 census, many people may be susceptible to phony correspondence or telephone calls, according to a new survey released by the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Sam Shumway with AARP Wyoming said the more people understand how the census will actually work, the more likely they'll recognize shady activity.

"One thing to know is that the census is never going to email you, and they're never going to call you,” Shumway said. “And so if you get a call from somebody claiming that they're from the census, hang up and disregard that call."

Invitations to participate in the once-a-decade count will be sent by mail in March. People can fill out the form online, or by mail, or by telephone if assistance is needed. If people don't respond, starting in May, census workers will start knocking on doors to ensure an accurate count. Official workers should be able to show you their Census Bureau photo ID badge with a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.

Nearly half of U-S adults said they had been targeted by an impostor scam, according to a recent AARP survey, and the number of scams where criminals pose as government representatives increased more than 50 percent over 2018. Shumway said it's important to remember that the census is being conducted by the federal government.

"They already have your Social Security number,” Shumway said. “If they ask for your Social Security number, it's not legitimate. Don't give any bank numbers, and there's no fee to participate in the Census."

Scammers have learned to capitalize on current events, and Shumway said now that the census is in the news, be on the lookout for criminals looking to deceive people into sharing sensitive information or handing over money. 

If you think you've been targeted, or if you're not sure if a census form is legitimate, you can call AARP's toll-free Fraud Watch hotline at 877-908-3360.