As the Census Advances, So Does Potential for Fraud

     

As the U.S. Census Bureau works to compile information about households and businesses this year, swindlers are also working to get that information — and they are taking advantage of the census to do it. In spite of the warnings we’ve been hearing for more than a year now, it’s still happening.

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And now that the census is moving into its second phase, in which hundreds of thousands of temporary workers travel door to door to follow up at addresses where residents didn’t respond to mailed-in questionnaires, the opportunities for fraud could grow.

For months, the Bureau’s publicity campaign has been preparing people and organizations not only for the census, but the for possibility of census-related fraud. "Please note that the [census] form is not available online," says a video produced by the Bureau, "and do not fill out any form that claims it is the 2010 Census questionnaire sent to you via e-mail or that you are directed to on the internet; it will be a scam."

Ohio-based Safeguard Properties Inc., which maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for its mortgage industry clients, has reportedly received 2,500 calls from people identifying themselves as Census Bureau employees and asking for a wide variety of data on the vacant real estate. The company has since created an 800 number specifically for Census workers, in an attempt to short-circuit potential swindlers. "We cannot just give that information to anybody that calls," company founder and Chairman Robert Klein told American Banker.

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May 22, 2010