Commentary: When census imposters come knocking

With a little more than 40 days left to count every person living in the U.S., census workers are rushing to gather information prior to their Sept. 30 deadline. Many residents of Alaska may hear a knock at their door or receive some other type of communication from the U.S. Census Bureau within the next few weeks. Unfortunately, there’s a concern that imposters are vying for your information as well.

The U.S. Census provides a snapshot of our nation — who we are, where we live, and so much more. The results of this once-a-decade count determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. They are also used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Responses also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Collecting this valuable information has caused the U.S. Census Bureau to have its fair share of imposters, and they can be hard to spot. However, knowing how the Census Bureau operates can help everyone be prepared when asked to participate.

Some of the information census takers request is personal. But the Census Bureau states that they will never ask for your full social security number, request monetary donations or inquire about anything on behalf of a political party. Most importantly, census takers will not request your full bank or credit account numbers.

Here are some BBB tips to help you safely participate in the census:

  • Door knockers: Verify the identity of those knocking on the door. Check to make sure that they have a valid I.D. badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. Also, this year, representatives will be wearing a mask and requesting to do the interviews outside to accommodate health concerns.
  • Emails: If you receive an email requesting your information, the Census Bureau has made it clear official Census Bureau emails will be sent from 2020census@subscriptions.census.gov. If you receive an email from another address, it’s best to delete and then disregard it.
  • Phone calls: When receiving a phone call from someone claiming they are with the census, make sure you have verified their identity through the official Census Bureau website. Do not provide any personal information until that verification has been made.
  • Mail: Confirm the legitimacy of any census-related mailings you receive by comparing them to the information on 2020census.gov/en/mailings.html.

It’s imperative to protect your personal information. For more tips on safeguarding your data, visit trust-bbb.org.

Sheron Patrick is the Communications Manager for the Better Business Bureau of Northwest and Pacific serving Alaska. He lives in Anchorage, where he and his team write articles and alerts on tips to help keep Alaskan consumers safe.