smart spending

Look out for these 4 Census scams

The phony Census call:

If someone calls you claiming to be from the Census and asks you to divulge personal financial information, it's a scam. Only in rare instances, a Census worker may call to clarify information you've submitted, according to the Census Web site.

In addition, fraudsters now have devices that can make caller ID come up "US Census" or a similar identifier, Kresse says. That would make the call that much more credible.

What you do: Don't give out financial information over the phone.

"Consider it a big, bright red flag if someone says they represent the Census and asks you for delicate financial information," says Southwick.

A Census visit in person:

If people don't mail back their forms, Census takers will visit their homes to fill out the questionnaire in person, starting May 1, according to the Census Web site. Census officials may visit some homes more than once as the program conducts quality-control checks.

In this type of scam, someone knocks on your door, states he is a Census worker and asks you for money to pay for the 2010 Census, says Kresse.

To make sure you're talking to a Census worker, ask to see his official government badge with his name and a Department of Commerce watermark. Then, ask for a second picture ID for confirmation, the Census Web site says. If you're still not sure, there are numbers on the Census Web site to call to confirm that the visit is legitimate.

Be aware, it may not be a con artist who wants your money. "There will be rogue Census workers who will use their position to ask for your Social Security number or a fee," Kresse says. Although the Census Bureau does background checks, these workers are likely new to the scam game and have no record.

What to do: A Census worker who comes to your door will only ask you the same questions that are on the survey.

"If you're suspicious or don't feel safe, close the door and call the Census phone number to verify that person is an actual Census worker," says Kim.

Kim says the best way to avoid problems is to educate yourself about the process by checking out the Census Bureau Web site and to mail back your 10-question survey as soon as possible.

"Our site has the actual form and the questions we are asking, plus a link to questions you may have," Kim says.

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