Pretty soon, there will be knock at the door. But it’s not a door-to-door salesman. Rather, many Southwest Florida residents can expect to be greeted by a U.S. Census worker.
However, federal officials and local law enforcement agencies are urging area residents to be wary of possible scam artists trying to take advantage of the decennial event for profit.
“Unfortunately, there are always people that are looking for an opportunity to take advantage of people,” said U.S. Census Atlanta regional spokeswoman Pam Page-Bellis on Tuesday. “We just want to safeguard the information.”
And to do that, residents need to know how to identify legitimate U.S. Census employees.
“We are worried not only about the safety of our employees, but every person that we have to interview at the door,” said Page-Bellis. “We don’t want anyone taking advantage of the Census. So the more (residents) know, the more they will be armed.”
When the 2010 Census takes place, residents will receive a letter from the Census Bureau director, notifying them that, in a few days, their household will receive a form in the mail, or a phone call from the Census Bureau, or a visit from a Census Bureau representative.
Page-Bellis said all a Census work is supposed to ask — if they arrive at your front door — are the 10 questions on the survey.
“They’ll never ask for your Social Security number or personal banking information. They will not ask you if you are documented,” said Page-Bellis. “They will ask you those 10 basic questions and that’s all. Nothing else will be asked.”
Any request for census information from the Census Bureau will be clearly marked as coming from the U.S. Census Bureau and as “official business” of the United States.
According to the U.S. Census, each temporary Census Bureau employee will carry an official identification card with their signature and an expiration date. The temporary cards do not include photographs of the employee.
However, local law enforcement agencies have copies of the sample identification cards and are aware of the process.
“If you are approached by someone identifying themselves as a Census worker, make sure they provide you with proper identification,” said Naples police spokesman Michael Herman, adding that residents should not be afraid to ask the worker for photo identification to confirm their identity. “They’ll gladly show you if they are legitimate.”
But if a resident is still unsure of the worker’s identity, Herman said contact the Naples police department or the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
“We will respond to assist in verifying whether the Census worker is valid or not,” he said.
In addition, you should never invite anyone you don’t know into your home.
“A Census worker will never ask to enter your home,” said Page-Bellis.
Officials said residents could expect Census Bureau workers to make contact by telephone, mail or in person at home, but never by e-mail.
Residents are being advised to be on the lookout for Census-themed e-mail scams and urged to never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.
So with the Census questionnaires expected to be mailed to homes nationwide from March 15 to 17, Page-Bellis said Census Bureau employees won’t be making the rounds in Naples and Collier County until after April 1, which is National Census Day — and only if a home did not mail back the survey. Canvassing of those homes will go from April through July.
But if residents want to avoid the hassle of having someone come to their house, Page-Bellis said the best thing to do is fill out the Census form as soon as they get it in the mail.
“If you don’t want someone coming to your door, send your questionnaire in,” said Page-Bellis with a laugh. “Then we don’t need to go knock on your door.”
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With the U.S. Census process about to begin, here are some tips from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the Naples Police Department, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Better Business Bureau to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft during the 2010 Census:
-- If a U.S. Census Bureau worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and badge before answering questions.
-- A Census worker will never ask to enter your home.
-- Legitimate Census Bureau workers’ primary responsibility is to collect census information from residences that have not sent back their 2010 Census form.
-- If no one answers at a particular residence, a census taker will visit that home up to three times, each time leaving a door hanger featuring a phone number; residents can call the number on the hanger to schedule the visit.
-- Census Bureau workers might ask for a salary range.
-- Census Bureau workers will not ask for your Social Security number, credit card number, or banking information, nor will employees solicit donations.
-- Census Bureau workers might make contact by telephone, mail or in person at home, but never by e-mail. Residents are advised to be on the lookout for census-themed e-mail scams. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.
-- Collier County residents can call the regional census center at 1-800-424-6974 to confirm whether someone claiming to be a census worker is employed by the Census Bureau.
-- Residents who encounter anything unusual with regard to the census should contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit at (239)252-0703 or the Naples Police Department.
To learn more about the 2010 Census visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census/
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Connect with Elysa Batista at www.naplesnews.com/staff/elysa_batista