Fact Check

Census Scam

Are people posing as census workers trying to obtain personal information over the telephone?

Published June 3, 2000


Claim:   People posing as census workers are attempting to elicit personal information over the telephone.

Status:   Undetermined.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2000]

A friend of mine yesterday received a call at home from someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau. The caller stated that they were just calling to confirm information on file for her. They proceeded to go over my friend's home address, phone # and full name (maiden name as well). But when it came to her social security number, they wanted her to repeat the number to them.

Reluctant - my friend said she would call them tomorrow once she had verified with someone at the Census Bureau that they were doing cold calling. The caller even had their "supervisor" get on the line and try to convince my friend. She hung up and immediately called her telephone company. They were able to trace the call to a Baltimore residence. Apparently this is the latest scam going around. Please pass along to your friends and remind them never to give out information over the phone.

Origins:   Did this really happen? We don't know. Citizens have been reporting this scam to the police, but that doesn't mean someone actually tried to pull it on them. People often notify the police about things they've heard of but haven't necessarily experienced themselves.

Census workers do make phone calls and door-to-door visits to try to track down households that did not return their census forms, but they don't ask for Social Security numbers. They also carry identification badges and will give you the phone number of their Census Bureau offices so you can verify their identities. In any case, this is an area where plain old common sense is more important than knowing "the truth." Don't give out personal information to anyone whose identity you cannot ascertain, over the telephone or by any other means. Anyone who balks at your attempts to verify the origin and purpose of their request is almost certainly up to no good.

Last updated:   6 January 2008

  Sources Sources:

    Associated Press.   "Consumer Groups Say Scam Artists Posing As U.S. Census-Takers."

    CNN.com.   1 June 2000.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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