Stay Safe. Get Counted.

It’s 2020 Census Season, and we’re working hard to make sure everyone gets counted. But while organizations like ours are working hard to ensure a fair and accurate count, there are dishonest people using this important civic action as an opportunity to scam others. For example, you may have heard about deceptive fundraising mailers by the national Republican Party designed to look like census forms, and as the census process continues there will almost certainly be more reports of similar behavior. 

The good news? There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself. Read on to understand how to stay safe from census scams like these and avoid falling prey to one of the biggest census scams of all: the Black undercount, which has cheated generations of Black communities out of hundreds of billions of dollars and cost us our fair share of political representation. Here’s what you need to know to safely participate in the 2020 Census: 

  • Real Census Bureau employees and surveys will never ask you for your social security number, bank account or credit card information, or for money/donations.
  • The census will not ask about your citizenship status, and they will never ask questions on behalf of any political party. 
  • Real census takers carry an official ID badge with their photo, a United States Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. Always ask to see this before sharing information with someone who says they work for the Census Bureau!
  • Your information is completely confidential and cannot be shared or used against you in any way. The Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your information and keep it confidential. 

The count is already underway in some rural communities (like in remote Alaska), but for most of us the count won’t begin until between March 12th and 20th, when we’ll start receiving the first mailers inviting us to complete the 2020 Census by phone or online at my2020census.gov. You may see Census Bureau workers in your community verifying addresses, and later on in the spring and summer to follow up with people who don’t self-respond online or by phone. Again, do not give anyone your information without first seeing an official ID badge with their photo, a United States Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. You can also call 800-923-8282 to verify that someone works for the Census Bureau, or to report issues with people posing as Bureau employees.

Curious to know what the real 2020 Census will look like and what questions will be asked? You can learn more and see a sample of the paper form here. You can also preview what the online census form will look like here, courtesy of the National Coalition for Literacy. Take a look so you know what to look for, and so you can be prepared.

Filling out the census is simple and safe, and it’s very important to do so. As we often say here at Color Of Change, the census is about money and power, and we all need to complete it to ensure Black communities get our fair share. We have the power to break the cycle of being undercounted, underfunded, and underrepresented by getting counted as soon as the 2020 Census opens up for self-response beginning in mid-March. 

You now have the knowledge you need to protect yourself from scams and fraud; please share this information with your friends, family, and networks so fear doesn’t keep you or your loved ones from doing your part to ensure our communities get everything we need and deserve.

An infographic summarizes the kinds of information people can expect to be asked on the real census versus information that only scammers would be interested in.