For more than a year, state and local officials have been vigorously extolling the ease, safety, and benefits of responding to the 2020 Census.
But now, with the head-count beginning, the state Complete Count committee lead by Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz while the focus of this campaign remains on the political representation and federal aid at stake, this conversation also stresses that residents need to be aware of potential scams aimed at the theft of money and personal information.
In particular, there is concern about the likely attempts to victimize residents who Census officials classify as among the hardest to reach – underserved and under-represented urban populations, which in Connecticut include hard-to-count low-income Hispanic and other minority urban communities.
“There are bad actors looking to prey on vulnerable people,” said Catherine Blinder, education, and outreach officer for the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
State officials said all residents need to be aware that scammers may try to impersonate Census workers by knocking on doors, sending emails, text messages, or regular mail, or even developing fraudulent websites.
“The Census Bureau will never send unsolicited emails requesting for your participation or ask for your social security number, political affiliation, bank account or credit card number,” Bysiewicz said
Part of the state’s outreach to underserved communities, Blinder has been contributing a consumer column to two of the state’s ethnically focused media outlets, Tribuna and White Eagle News. The former is published in print and online and includes articles in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The latter is a similar media source that targets the region’s Polish-American market.
These columns mostly stress the benefits of an accurate Census in funding services to low-income communities and to reassure undocumented residents, that their personal information will not be shared with any other government agency, the court of law or administrative proceeding, or private entity for any purpose.
At a recent press conference, Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull and Attorney General William Tong joined Bysiewicz in addressing the scam issue.
“When something as important as the Census is on the mind of government officials and residents alike, scam artists try to find a way to capitalize on it,” Seagull said
Tong focused on the need for residents to recognize and report any scam or fraud episode. “It’s imperative that we make sure every resident is counted,” he said, adding, “If you’ve been the victim of a scam, our office is here to help,” said Attorney General Tong.
State consumer officials and the U.S. Census advise the following:
• The U.S. Census Bureau will not send unsolicited emails asking participation in the 2020 Census or contact anyone on behalf of a political party.
• If someone makes a home visit to collect a response for the 2020 Census, verify their identity by checking that they have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.
• If anyone still has a question about the visitor’s identity, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative.
To report a scam or instance of fraud, residents may contact the Office of the Attorney General at 860-808-5318 or file a complaint with the office at https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint, or contact the Department of Consumer Protection at 860-713-6300 or file a complaint with the department at https://ct.gov/dcp/complaint.
Also, anyone with a question about the Census or are having trouble filling out the form, may contact the following hotlines:
• Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: 888-COUNT20 (888-268-6820)
• NALEO Educational Fund: 877-EL-CENSO (877-352-3676)
• Asian Americans Advancing Justice: 844-2020-API (844-202-0274)
• Arab American Institute: 833-3DDOUNI (833-333-6864)
Bysiewicz launched Connecticut’s Complete Count Committee in February 2019, stressing the financial and electoral implications of the survey.
Connecticut receives $10.7 billion in federal aid per year based on Census data. This federal aid helps to fund critical programs and services Connecticut residents depend on.
The Census data also determines the distribution of congressional and state legislative seats. Blinder described participation as empowering, “By participating we will have a voice in government,” she said.