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Citizens Contact BBB with Safety Fears About Lengthy Census Form

4/6/2010

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Arlington, VA – April 6, 2010 – Better Business Bureau has received calls from concerned people across the country who received a Census form in the mail that asked personal questions involving their income range and employment situation. BBB advises consumers that, while most will receive a short 10-question 2010 Census survey form, they should not be alarmed if they are chosen to respond to the 69-question American Community Survey (ACS) as well.

The 2010 Census form has 10 questions covering basic information while the ACS has 69 questions on topics such as income, household expenses, employment, education, and work commutes. Some individuals who received the ACS in addition to the 10 question form contacted their BBB over concerns that the form was actually the work of scammers. 

“Everyone in the country has been prepped to expect the simple 10-question survey in their mailbox and red flags automatically go up when they receive the longer and more personal American Community Survey,” said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus “While the questions in the ACS might seem invasive, especially when compared to the 10-question form, responding to the survey is safe, important and required by law.”

BBB reminds consumers that the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census will never ask for donations or bank account, Social Security or credit card numbers. The Census Bureau may contact you by mail or phone, but will not send you unsolicited e-mails requesting sensitive personal information.

Following are a few answers to frequently asked questions to BBB about the American Community Survey:

How many addresses receive the ACS?
The ACS is sent to a random sample of approximately 3 million addresses per year, or approximately 250,000 each month of the year. This means that approximately 2.5 percent of the population will receive the ACS in any given year.

If I received both the 10-question survey and ACS do I need to respond to both?
If you receive both the 10-question form and the ACS, you are required by law to respond to both.

The questions seem to get personal, are my answers safe?
Responding to the ACS is safe and your personal information will not be shared with anyone, including other government agencies.

Why does the federal government need to ask me so many questions?
In addition to needing population counts, communities need data about the well being of children, families, and the elderly to provide services to them. The information you provide on the ACS not only helps your community get its fair share of federal funds, but also to establish goals, identify problems and solutions, and measure the performance of programs.

I received a survey from the federal government, but it isn’t the ACS or the 2010 survey. Is it legit?
At any point in time the US Census Bureau distributes a number of different surveys to the American public and the topics and length vary. Before responding to a survey you received in the mail that claims to be with the Census Bureau, do your research on the Census Bureau’s Web site (“Are you in a survey?” Link) at www.census.gov/survey_participants/.

Who do I contact if I have questions or could use help filling out the ACS? 
If you need help completing your American Community Survey questionnaire or have other questions about the American Community Survey, please call 1-800-354-7271 for an English-speaking operator. If you prefer a Spanish-speaking operator, call 1-877-833-5625.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376.

About BBB
BBB, the leader in advancing marketplace trust, is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability Reports® and charity BBB Wise Giving Reports®, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is a difference in viewpoints. The organization is also a recognized leader in developing and administering self-regulation programs for the business community, and, with respect to the advertising industry, does that through a joint venture in conjunction with National Advertising Review Council partners. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 123 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than four million local and national businesses and charities. Visit www.bbb.org for more information.

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