BBB Advises Consumers To Get Census Facts Before Giving Out Personal Information

March 29, 2010

St. Louis, Mo., March 16, 2010 – With U.S. Census forms hitting mailboxes, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising consumers to comply with the government’s request for information, while verifying the identity of anyone asking for information by phone, by e-mail or in person.

“Most people are rightfully cautious about giving personal information to unsolicited phone callers or visitors,” said Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of the BBB in St. Louis. “A response to the Census is required – and it assures that your community gets its share of resources and representation in Congress.” 

Census forms were mailed this month. In areas where mail delivery is difficult or nonexistent, Census workers are going door-to-door.

Five good reasons to fill out Census forms are:

  • It’s safe. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share your answers with anyone, not even another government agency.  The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison.
  • It’s easy. The mail-in form has 10 questions, which shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes to answer. If you don’t return the form, a census taker will visit you at least three times.
  • It allocates money and resources to you and your community. Census information is used to determine how the federal government spends more than $400 billion for infrastructure and services, such as hospitals, job training centers, schools, bridges and roads.
  • It saves money. For every 1 percent increase in mail-in census responses, the government – and taxpayers – save $80 million to $90 million.
  • It helps your voice be heard. The information affects the number of seats your state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Census workers will never ask you for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers. They do not solicit donations, and the Census Bureau will not contact you by e-mail.

The Census Bureau is required to provide forms to each of 130 million household addresses and obtain a response from the residents.  In April, Census Bureau employees will begin knocking on doors of those who do not mail back completed forms. Census Bureau employees carry identification that includes: 

  • An ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. Field representatives also will carry a bag with a Census Bureau logo.
  • Upon request, field representatives will provide households with contact information for supervisors and/or the regional office phone number for verification.
  • Field representatives also will provide a letter from the Census Bureau director on official letterhead.

Door-to-door canvassing of households will conclude in July. Official Census Bureau information is at

The BBB is alerting consumers to an e-mail that falsely claims to be from the BBB, which gives inaccurate information about the Census.

“Unfortunately, scammers may pose as government employees and solicit sensitive financial information,” Corey said. “The Census itself is safe.”

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit the BBB at or call 314-645-3300.

Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300,
Chris Thetford, Director of Communications, 314-645-3300,