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The 2020 Census - How to Avoid Scams

Sep 9, 2020, 11:24 AM
United States of America and people representative of the US Census

Every ten years, the government puts out a Census to count everyone who is living in the United States. This data is then used to not only determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives, but also to distribute federal funds accordingly to local communities.

Unfortunately, not everyone who claims to be a census official is legitimate. Some are scammers, which seems to increase as we near the deadline. Here are 3 census scams to watch out for as the September 30th deadline approaches and how to avoid them!

Telephone Census Scams

Scammers may manipulate a caller ID to make it look like a legitimate census phone number. In order to avoid falling victim to a phone scam, you should always be sure that the caller on the line identifies their name and the name of the survey. There is also a directory that you can use to look up the name of census officials, to ensure they work for the census. You can find that directory here.

Census Question Scams

There are a variety of questions that the census may ask. These questions include:

  • How many people were living in your home on April 1, 2020?
  • What is each individual’s gender, race, ethnicity, age?
  • What is your relationship to one another?
  • What is your address and phone number?
  • Do you rent or own your home?

     Scammers may attempt to ask you other questions that may breach your security. When filling out or discussing the census, avoid answering any questions that do not fall under one of the 5 questions above. For the full list of questions on the 2020 Census, visit 2020 Census Questions Asked section.

Incomplete Census Scams

You may get a phone call, letter, or even home visit letting you know that you are in jeopardy of going to jail if you don’t pay a late or delinquency fee on your census. The scammer may ask for payment via money wire, or from a prepaid debit card. There are two things to note regarding this scam. The first is that the census will not send you to jail for not completing your census. The second is that the Census Bureau will never ask you for payment. The census is free to complete, and there is not a late fee or non-completion fee attached to the census. 

If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative. You also can file a report with the FTC at You can fill out your 2020 census at For more ways to avoid falling victim to a census scam, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Your voice matters. Completing the 2020 census is a great way to shape our community’s future. 

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