Visit the AARP Eye Center for the latest news and information about your vision health.
by Ana Radelat, AARP VIVA, June 2009
Thousands of census takers will be knocking on doors next spring in an effort to reach every household that does not mail back a completed questionnaire by April 9, 2010. But some who knock on doors posing as census takers may be con artists seeking personal financial information to defraud their victims—often the elderly and minorities.
Law enforcement officials in several states have issued warnings that scammers masquerading as census employees are already asking for donations and Social Security numbers. How can you spot a scam?
First, note what’s being asked.
While census takers will ask demographic information about every person living in a household—including name, age, gender, race, ethnic origin, and marital and employment status—they will never ask for Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information, or donations.
“Most people are cautious and will not give out personal information to unsolicited phone callers or visitors, but the census is an exception to that rule,” says Tom Bartholomy, president of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Scammers know the public is more willing to share personal data when taking part in the census.”
Second, note the method of contact.
Bartholomy is most concerned that a surge in new technology since the 2000 census will result in a rash of identity theft, with scammers using the Internet to rob victims who think they are providing information to census workers.
“If you receive something by e-mail, realize it’s not part of the census,” he says.
The BBB is one of a growing number of organizations and local governments that are warning against scammers. Norma Vega, executive director of the Los Angeles Office of the Census Bureau, has already begun a public outreach and education campaign.
"We try to be as proactive as possible,” she says.
But there’s already evidence of scams.
Sheriff Matt Lutz of Muskingum County, Ohio, says several seniors have already given him copies of letters they’ve received from con artists posing as census employees requesting financial information and money.
He urges local seniors to respond to the census, but to be cautious. “We want an accurate census, but we don’t want anybody to be ripped off,” Lutz says.
“Seniors are most often targeted because they have more assets, are more likely to be at home, and can sometimes be more trusting,” says Andres Castillo, AARP’s project manager for education and outreach.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members save 5% on a monthly subscription.
Members save 30% off the first year of a World Explorer subscription.
25% off device and online privacy protection plans
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at