Multiple census visits: scam or legitimate?

“There are so many scams going on these days that I just have to ask this question,” the woman said in an email to the newspaper. “Are these people bogus census takers?”


An Alexandria resident is wondering if she was the target of a census scam.

In late spring, she was visited by a census worker and she provided the requested information.

In mid summer, she completed an online census after she received a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau that said she could return her census that way instead of having someone stop by her house.

Then, on Nov. 20, another person claiming to be from the Census Bureau visited her. He showed her identification and he had a laptop computer with the census logo on it.

Three days later, yet another census worker showed up at her house, saying that he was doing a follow-up on the census. When she told him someone was just at her house a few days ago, he told her it was his job to make sure the other person had stopped in.


They both asked her for the names of people living in her house, their birth dates, whether her house was their only residence, if they lived there year-round and whether she owned the property.

The frequent contacts raised her suspicions.

“There are so many scams going on these days that I just have to ask this question,” the woman said in an email to the newspaper. “Are these people bogus census takers?”

The answer: Probably not. They were likely just doing their job, according to Census Bureau officials.

There are many reasons why some people who have already responded to the 2020 Census may get multiple visits or phone calls from U.S. Census Bureau employees – to verify that they responded, to check addresses and other information, or as part of a survey, according to Jeanine Beasley, media coordinator for the Chicago region of the U.S. Census Bureau.

She provided the following information from the bureau: “This is normal operating procedure. The 2020 Census operation is designed to be comprehensive and thorough. In many cases, we complete multiple checks to be sure we have collected accurate information and are counting people in the right place.”

The Census Bureau creates a master address file that is used to reach out to every household in the country. This file is compiled and verified by multiple sources including state and local governments. Sometimes slight variations in the format of an address can create duplicates.

If the bureau finds duplicate addresses, it may send out a census taker to check it. If one address needs to be deleted, it may send another census taker to confirm its status before deleting it from its files. This is one of the many quality checks in the procedures that help make the count more accurate, according to the bureau.


Reasons for multiple visits

Other reasons a housing unit may get multiple visits include:

  • Verifying the response of someone who didn’t use a census ID when they responded.

  • Conducting quality checks on self-response answers.

  • Re-interviewing someone who was previously contacted by a census taker to check the quality of the census taker’s work.

“These important quality checks help the Census Bureau ensure that the population count is as complete as it can be,” the bureau said. “We encourage everyone to please cooperate with census takers, even if you have already responded. You will be helping us to count you in the right place and ensure the quality and completeness of the 2020 Census count.”
The bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey measures the accuracy of the census by independently surveying a sample of the population. Those interviews began on Sept. 23 and will continue through Dec. 22.

The survey is different from the 2020 Census. The survey takers will ask questions about where you lived on April 1, 2020, and some questions about who lived with you. The bureau then matches that information to the 2020 Census and contacts people with any follow-up questions.

It takes about 15 minutes to complete the interview. Just like the census, a response is required by law. The Census Bureau will never ask for your full social security number, bank account number or passwords.

How to identify a census taker

As of Oct. 16, the Census Bureau is no longer collecting responses to the 2020 Census . However, other surveys remain ongoing.

If someone from the Census Bureau visits your home to collect responses for a different survey, you can do the following to verify their identity:

  • First, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.

  • They will have an official bag and Census Bureau-issued electronic device, such as a laptop or smartphone, bearing the Census Bureau logo.

  • Census takers and field representatives will conduct their work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., local time.

  • If you still have questions about their identity, you can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a Census Bureau representative.

Throughout the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau never asks for:

  • Your full Social Security number.

  • Your bank account or credit card numbers.

  • Anything on behalf of a political party.

  • Money or donations.

  • Your citizenship or immigration status.

If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact your local police department.


You Asked

If you have a question that you’d like the newspaper to look into, send your “You Asked” question to .

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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