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How to Spot Your Census Survey and Identify Impostors

by Emily Smith - January 22, 2020

Did you know that the 2020 Census is not the only survey being conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau this year? Housed under the United States Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts 130 surveys and programs and each has its own timelines for completion.  

Apart from the decennial census, which occurs every 10 years, there are other notable surveys occurring on an annual basis. These surveys collect data related to households, businesses, consumerism, the housing landscape, and more.  

If you’ve been visited by a Census worker in past few weeks you are likely encountering them for another reason. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, you might observe a census worker in your neighborhood for a few different reasons:  

  • Dropping off census materials to a home  
  • Conducting census related quality checks 
  • Collecting responses for another survey, like the American Community Survey or the Consumer Expenditure Survey  

The 2020 U.S. Census officially kicks off in March when your household will receive a postcard in the mail encouraging you to participate in the 2020 Census online or by phone. Only in April and May, if you have not reported your household online or by phone, will a Census worker visit your home.  

Information gathered by the American Community Survey is just as crucial as the 2020 Census data. If you were lucky enough to be selected to participate in the American Community Survey this year, congrats! Please participate and don’t forget to be on the lookout for your 2020 Census invite in March. More information about the American Community Survey is below along with some helpful tips on how to spot a fraudulent census worker.  

What is the American Community Survey? 

The American Community Survey (ACS) captures similar data as the decennial census but works year round with a smaller sample size. ACS data enables local officials, community leaders, businesses and other stakeholders to identify and asses major changes occurring at the community level, understand the nuances of population and housing trends, and make informed decisions in response to these trends and changes.  

What questions are asked on the American Community Survey? 

Aligned with decennial census questions, ACS questions cover topics ranging from ancestry, age, and the number of people living in your household to educational attainment, employment status, and computer usage. This survey is sent to a smaller percentage of the population throughout the decade. According the U.S. Census Bureau no household should receive the American Community Survey more than one time every five years.    

How do I participate in the American Community Survey? 

If your household was selected to participate in the American Community Survey, likely by mail, you can report four different ways: online, by Mail, by phone, in-person interview. Detailed “how to” information can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.  

How do I Spot a Fraudulent Census Worker? 

Remember, confidentiality is key. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your responses. It’s important, however, to know how to spot fraud if you encounter an impostor census worker face to face. If someone visits your home on behalf of the census they should obtain an ID badge with the following items:  

  • Photograph  
  • U.S. Department of Commerce logo  
  • Expiration date 

If they are claiming to be a 2020 Census worker, they should not arrive until April or May. If you have questions you can take a picture of the ID badge and send it to one of your local Census offices here in Arkansas. For more information contact your local Census office: