This year, 2010, is a census year. (There’s one every ten years.) It aims to count everyone, citizen or not, in the US. In March, they’ll be sending out forms to be filled in and returned. If a household doesn’t return a form (or it’s lost in transit), a census worker could show up to ask the same questions. (This is scheduled for April-July.) It’s legally required to co-operate with them.
The thing is, how do you know they’re legitimate and not some con artist trying to find out too much or get into your home?
Here’s what it says on the Census website (we added the emphasis):
“If a census taker visits you, here’s what you should do:
* First ask to see their ID. All census workers carry official government badges marked with just their name; they may also have a “U.S. Census Bureau” bag
* Note that the census taker will never ask to enter your home
* If you’re still not certain about their identity, please call the Regional Census Centers to confirm they are employed by the Census Bureau. [Note: San Francisco’s is at (415)-908-4050]
* Answer the census form questions for your entire household (you must be at least 15 years old to answer questions) so that the census taker can record the results for submission to the Census Bureau
Census takers visit local homes several times to capture resident information for the 2010 Census. If you prefer, you can schedule a visit with your census taker. Should the census taker come when you are away from your home, they will leave a contact number.”
As someone pointed out on a separate newsgroup, “YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION. The Census Bureau will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers, nor will employees solicit donations. Any one asking for that information is NOT with the Census Bureau. Never invite anyone you don’t know into your home.
Call your local police non emergency number if you think anything is not right (after you send them away). They will find and interview the people you think are suspicious and verify their credentials.
Please chat with your elderly neighbors, friends and relatives – pass on this information to them.”
Of course, the easiest thing is to fill in and return the form. Then, unless it’s lost in the mail, there’ll be no need for a visit from the census taker.
Edited to Add: In addition to the Census, there’s the American Community Survey. It’s a substitute for the Long Form that used to be part of the census. It goes to 1 out of 480 households.
Like the Census, it’s legally required to complete it. Unlike the census, it’s a fairly long form – it takes 20-60 minutes to fill in. Like the census, they will send a worker to talk to you if you get a survey and don’t fill it in.