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Don’t be a victim of census scams

Watch out for requests for personal information via emails and calls 

March 9, 2020

Here’s one prediction you can count on: Scams, frauds and rumors will shadow the 2020 U.S. Census.    

For the first time, you can choose to respond to the census online, by phone, or by mail. You should receive an invitation in the mail before Census Day — April 1, 2020. For those who don’t respond to that invitation or subsequent mailings, expect a knock on your door later in the spring or summer.    

You may already be receiving emails, letters or calls that refer to the census and seek information. These are likely another form of an imposter scam, when a fraudster pretends to be someone they are not, for the purposes of getting your money or your personal information. 

Imposter scams were the second most common type of complaint reported to the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division in 2019, and the No. 1 complaint reported by Iowans ages 60 and older.  

The U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies are warning against such scams and offering tips. The U.S. Census Bureau will not:      

  • Send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the Census or direct you to a website. 
  • Ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers. 
  • Request money or donations. 
  • Threaten you with jail time or arrest for failing to participate. 
  • Contact you on behalf of a political party. 
  • Ask your citizenship status. 

To see questions that will be asked, go to the Census website. 

How do I know if someone’s a census taker?  

If someone comes to your home to get census information, verify his or her identity by:  

  • Asking to see a valid ID badge, that shows his or her photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. 
  • If you still have questions about their identity, you can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local U.S. Census Bureau representative. Or you can call the regional field office for Iowa, at 800-865-6384.

If you determine that the visitor does not work for the Census Bureau, contact local law enforcement. 

To report suspected scams 

If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local U.S. Census Bureau representative. 

You also can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at 

The U.S. Census Bureau is also encouraging Americans to report false and suspicious information they see to

For more information, see the Census Bureau page

How to file a complaint with us

If you believe you’ve been scammed, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. To file a complaint, go here or call 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area).  

For more tips, follow the Iowa Attorney General on Facebook and Twitter at @AGIowa 



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