Be aware of census-form scam

By on April 16, 2010

Social security number not one of the questions
by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—There are 10 questions asked on the 2010 Census form, but if you find the question, ‘What is your Social Security number?’ don’t answer it. This is the advice of Sugar Grove investigator John Sizer, who recently met with a Sugar Grove resident who completed such a form and sent it in.

The Elburn Herald is withholding the resident’s name to protect his privacy and due to the potential that he could become a victim of identity theft.

The resident, who uses a post office box, received a notice in his mail that he would soon be receiving a census form. A few days later, an official-looking form did come in the mail, and the man answered all of the questions, including the one about his Social Security number, and sent it back to what he thought was the Census Bureau.

Not so, according to the 2010 Census Form website.

“The Census Bureau never asks for your full Social Security number,” the site states.

Sizer, who has recently seen quite a bit of identity theft activity in Sugar Grove, said that he had just heard about this particular scam on the radio when the Sugar Grove resident walked in.

“Hopefully he’s caught it quick enough,” Sizer said.

Sizer’s advice for the man was that he should begin monitoring his credit card and other accounts. By law, individuals are entitled to a free credit report every year, he said.

In such a situation, any of the three major credit check companies will put a flag on your account for 90 days, he said. They would notify him right away if there is some unusual activity on any of his accounts.

“Right now, we don’t know if he’s a victim,” Sizer said. “So far, they haven’t used it to set up any accounts in his name.”

Sizer said he told the man that if he sees any out-of-the-ordinary activity in his accounts, he should come back to the station and Sizer would begin an investigation.

If you think you might have been contacted by someone pretending to represent the Census Bureau, the Chicago Regional Census Center may be contacted at (312) 454-2700.

While being alert to potential scams, each household is required by law to complete a census form and send it in with a postmark of Friday, April 16. Census workers will begin going door-to-door on Saturday, May 1, to those households that have not sent in a completed form.

More than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to tribal, state and local governments each year, based on the information from census data, as well as decisions on what community services to provide. According to the website, this year’s form is one of the shortest in United States history, consisting of only 10 questions and taking 10 minutes to complete.