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Ask Sid

Hello, U.S. Census Long Form

Why is my 2010 U.S. Census form so long?

Q. Soon after completing the 10-question U.S. Census form, I got a longer Census survey seeking additional personal information. What is this?

A. It’s 69 more questions. Having sent the much-publicized “short” Census form to theoretically every American household, the U.S. Census Bureau is also mailing a form called the American Community Survey to about 3 million households, a bit more than 2 percent of the total. It seeks details on such things as income, employment, and even work commute.

If you receive the short and long forms, you are required by law to complete both.

And although it’s now the start of a new decade and therefore time for the main national Census, you may receive other surveys bearing the Census Bureau name. Some may be scams, however, sent by people seeking personal information about you. Before completing them, you can authenticate their legitimacy by calling your regional Census office or visiting the Census Web page for survey participants. For information about the American Community Survey in particular, you can call 1-800-354-7271 or visit the official website.

Neither the long form nor the short form will ask for your Social Security number or numbers to your bank account or credit card. So you can figure there’s a scam going on if that information is being sought. And the Census Bureau will not send you unsolicited e-mails.

Also, don’t fall for any survey or at-home visit in which you’re asked for money–including the so-called “Census of Senior Citizens” that seeks a $25 donation for responding to questions about Medicare and tax laws. The Federal Trade Commission has more information on a Web page for avoiding Census-related scams.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.


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