Census scammers targeting elderly population
Published 1:02 am, Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Connecticut Better Business Bureau is warning residents to be aware of potential census scammers targeting seniors.
"None of the census questions require any kind of personal or financial information, like credit card numbers, bank accounts or social security numbers. Any requests for those is a scam," said Howard Schwartz, a Connecticut BBB spokesman.
"There's no request for a Social Security number, because they're interested in addressed and who lives there. The people who need Social Security numbers have them: your bank; your employer; the IRS. People should keep that in mind," Schwartz said.
"We did have one case that I'm aware of, where one of our senior participants in the program fell victim to it," she said. In this instance, the victim received a "bogus census" in November; the actual census was not distributed until March, Lippel said.
"It's definitely happening to people, especially in the 50-plus population. People need to be aware that they do not need to distribute their personal information," she said. "If there's a question about the validity of the census, they can call the regional officer or check the census Web site."
The regional office dedicated to Connecticut residents is located in Boston; residents can call the office at 1-800-562-5721. The census Web site is www.census.gov.
"There are a number of tips that will indicate how you can tell whether someone is actually a census worker," Lippel said. "They will have an appropriate ID; they should have a badge anyone can ask to see. Ask them to hold the identification up to the door. If you're still concerned, you can call a supervisor before letting them in.
"The main goal is, we want people to be safe, and seniors are seen as an easy target. The economy is not great, so people are trying to get more creative in their scams and approaching a senior seems to be the easiest target," she said.
"We just try to remind seniors that they don't have to be so trusting. If their gut tells them something is not right, then it's probably not right. Don't be afraid to ask additional questions; it's your right and it's your personal information," Lippel said. "You should feel the right to not let somebody in, call a supervisor, look something up on the Internet or as a family member to look it up."
There's also a longer-form survey called the American Communities Survey, which has more questions than the standard census, according to Schwartz.
It's part of the census, and there's a legal requirement to participate in it, as there is with "the census," he said. "But once again, no matter how a person is dressed, or how official an e-mail or Web page looks, never give out any kind of personal information to anyone who claims to be working for the census."