Is That Person At Your Door A Real Census Worker?

The Census is starting up again, and the Better Business Bureau wants to remind people to use reason and caution when answering the door. You’re required by law to answer Census questions, but scammers may pose as legit Census workers and take advantage of the situation. “Law enforcement in several states have issued warnings that scammers are already posing as Census Bureau employees and knocking on doors asking for donations and Social Security numbers.” Here’s how to identify a real U.S. Census worker.

  • They will have identification.
    Real U.S. Census workers at your door will have all of the following:
    • a badge
    • a handheld device
    • a Census Bureau canvas bag
    • a confidentiality notice

    The BBB says, “Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don’t know into your home.”

  • They will only ask certain questions.
    “Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information,” notes the BBB. “Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.”
  • They will not use email. Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by e-mail, so be on the look out for e-mail scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • The males have a bright red stripe on their bottoms.
    No, wait. That’s something else entirely.

(Photo: Ol.v!er [H2vPk])


Edit Your Comment

  1. winstonthorne says:

    If you suspect fraud, eat their livers with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

  2. bbagdan says:

    What a timely article, because just yesterday I was thinking about pretending to be a census worker, just for kicks and/or to meet chicks.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Makes sense to me.

      “Are you married?”
      “Do you have any children?”
      “What do you do for a living, and what is your salary?”
      “What’s your phone number?”

      Just get a badge, a canvas bag, a handheld device of some sort, and print up a confidentiality statement, and you can get further than I can hitting on girls in bars.

    • catskyfire says:

      @bbagdan: Just remember…the person who answers the door may not be the one you were hoping to meet. But might really want to spend time with you…

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @bbagdan: Warning sign #4: If they stare lovingly at your chest for several awkward seconds too long, then purr, “Are those real?”

  3. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time:

    + Watch video

  4. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    I think it’s pretty amusing that I am supposed to make sure these people have a canvas bag with them..

    I’m not sure why I think it is amusing..

  5. YourTechSupport says:

    Also make sure that there’s no some bloke breaking into your house while we’re giving census information. Unless you like the government robbing you blind.

    • Robobot says:

      Greeeeaaaat. So just a few days after my useless police force released a statement encouraging us to change our daily friggin’ routines because there have been so many home invasions lately, I find out that I legally have to open the door for a stranger?

      I also worry for the safety of the legit census workers in the area. Even Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses stay away from doorsteps in the area around my house. Are census workers allowed to pack heat, or are they at least trained in kung-foo?

      • bibliophibian says:

        @Robobot: If I’m reading the article correctly, you *do not* “legally have to open the door for a stranger.” It says “You’re required by law to answer Census questions,” but that doesn’t mean that you’re required by law to answer the door whenever someone happens to knock.

        In 2000, I filled out the long form (and loved it – I enjoy filling out forms; sick, I know), and then a few months later a Census guy showed up, saying I had not responded and they needed my answers (short form). I was suspicious but it all checked out in the end.

        But, if I don’t feel like answering the door, I’m not answering the damned door, whether it’s the Census or anyone else. I work from home, and I work odd hours – at any given moment, even though I am IN the house, there’s a very good possibility that I’m either working under a deadline and cannot be interrupted, or sleeping, and I don’t care WHO it is, I’m not answering the door. If it’s that important they can get the cops to come announce it on the bullhorn.

  6. Justin42 says:

    I like the genericness of “handheld device”– so I’m supposed to answer the door for a complete stranger holding a cell phone and a canvas bag? Good method to ID yourselves, guys, you may as well say “The person will be wearing a shirt and pants.”

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    In terms of general security, I wouldn’t fling my door wide open when answering it either…even if they’re Census employees, you never know who has it in their mind that Census runs are a good way of scouting potential burglary locations. I tend to crack mine just enough to show half of myself, and none of what’s behind me. Unless someone wants my wall clock, I can’t imagine they’d see anything of value.

  8. giantnegro says:

    Do house plants and candy bars count on this census? How about my wife, she’s a bobcat?

    • korybing says:

      @giantnegro: Don’t worry, I have a permit for the bobcat. It’s a permit to run a hair salon. I’m also a dual-citizen of the United States and Florida.

  9. B says:

    So, the person who came by last night and took those full-length nude photos of me wasn’t a census worker?

  10. chucklebuck says:

    I actually don’t answer the door at all for random knocks. I only answer it if I know in advance that someone is coming over.

    • WeAre138 says:

      @chucklebuck: Same here. I look through the peekhole and if it’s not a friend or my neighbor, I just let my dog bark at them. Strangers only want money :)

      • edwardso says:

        @WeAre138: I wish I was tall enough to see through the peephole. Still, I don’t answer the door even when the person knocking can see me. If you don’t have chinese food go away

      • lemur says:

        @WeAre138: Same here but I have to do the barking myself.

      • Real Cheese Flavor says:

        @WeAre138: And another one here. I look through the peephole and if it’s not someone I recognize, I just let them keep knocking.

        Hell, sometimes if I’m not expecting company I won’t even bother stopping what I’m doing to get up and go look.

        I also don’t answer my phone when I’m not expecting a call.

    • YamiNoSenshi says:


      Same here. 95% of the time it’s people for my downstairs neighbor who hit the wrong buzzer, or the bratty kids who think it’s funny to annoy me. They don’t even bother running away after.

  11. kduhtoe says:

    Someone approached my mother’s house around a month or so ago and claimed to be from the census department. When my mother asked how she could help, the woman said all she needed to do was take a picture of the door. WHAT?! I tried to discern what that could possibly mean, and my mother reiterated for me; the alleged census worker did not want to ask any questions and only needed a photograph of the front door to the home. I couldn’t imagine this being a census technique, but I also couldn’t imagine it being a scamming technique either. What could this possibly mean?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @kduhtoe: Door collector? Burgeoning door-to-door door salesman?

      • WeAre138 says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Thats what I was thinking. Our company uses door collectors and they take pictures of the house to prove they were there. Maybe this one was too lazy to actually try to collect from her.

        • kduhtoe says:

          @WeAre138: I did not know that about door collectors. The problem is she doesn’t have any debts, and the person simply stated they only wanted permission to take a picture of the front door for the census.

    • hellinmyeyes says:

      @kduhtoe: Could she be confused in the difference between a property appraiser and census worker? Property field appraisers are known for taking photographs of real properties and buildings for their files. It’s perfectly legal in most places as long as they don’t cross a physical barrier (like a fence) or make overt gestures to intrude on privacy.

      I personally have not been approached by a census worker. The last memory I have of one was driving through my neighborhood in her tiny Geo Metro getting confused by our ridiculous neighborhood layout. I got a chuckle, but I’m sure she was cursing up a storm trying to figure out where to go.

      • kduhtoe says:

        @hellinmyeyes: It is definitely possible this was a property appraiser, and it is definitely possible my mother was confused.
        The folks are moving to their retirement home and have had the property privately appraised. They recently received a notice from the county appraisal office as well though. I bet the “census worker” was a “county worker”. Old people are hilarious.

        • Nathan Oliver says:

          @kduhtoe: I bet you’re right.

          I was one of the census workers, and I was under orders NOT to take any pictures. We were not issued any cameras, nor was there any real reason why we’d want pictures of the doors. Pictures of a house might have helped, but thay may have contained Personally Identifiable Information(PII), which would have had to be stored on the Census computer, not your personal equipment, and none of the equipment issued was capable of photographs.

          We did write a description of the house sometimes, particularly in cases where the address was not posted, but that was just text. Something like: “2-sty A-frame w/balcony, detached grg rt, long driveway”. Certainly nothing that could be construed as a photo.

          • drjayphd says:

            @Nathan Oliver: Well, it’d probably be more accurate to say that none of the equipment issues was capable of anything. ESPECIALLY their intended usage.

    • morlo says:

      @kduhtoe: The census guy just stood around on my porch for a minute. Didn’t see if he took a picture. At this stage they just physically verify addresses, and only come back to ask questions if you don’t submit the form send to said address. Kind of hilarious if the government is taking pictures of every front door in the country.

  12. Canino says:

    You’re required by law to answer Census questions.

    You are not requred by law to answer the door.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Canino: And then you get that awkward dance where it’s possible the Census worker can hear you go to the door, and instead of it opening, they can then hear you shuffle away.

      It’s worth it, though, if I don’t have to open the door and talk to strangers.

      • WeAre138 says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Just yell through the door “I’m not interested in your cookies or religion. Go away.”

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @WeAre138: “For the last time, I don’t want a copy of the Watchtower!”

          @Jenni Davids: The funny thing about that tactic is that if they talk to neighbors who don’t really know each other very well, they might end up with nothing anyway.

          My neighbor doesn’t know a thing about me other than basic things they may have culled from seeing my car in the driveway or seeing me once in a while. But if they’re like other curious people, they might wonder certain things…so if the Census person knocks on their door, are they going to say, “I don’t know much,” and leave it at that, or are they going to add a “BUT” afterward, and tell the Census person about the one time they saw me pull into my driveway and get groceries out, and based on the kind of food I had, I must be a rich snob or a deadbeat junk food addict.

          • edwardso says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: I know my upstairs neighbors, work schedule, taste in music, and preferred lovemaking time, thanks to parquet floors and minimal carpeting. So i guess I could tell the census taker “lazy, crappy, lazy”

          • tbonekatz says:

            @pecan 3.14159265:”
            “Who is it?”
            “Census worker.”
            “You’re that pesky land shark, aren’t you?”

          • 49USBPorts_GitEmSteveDave says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: I don’t want a copy of “The Watchtower”.

            However, I will accept a stirring rendition of either Bob Dylan’s, Jimi Hendrix’s, U2’s, Bear McCreary/Battlestar Galactica’s, and on alternate weekdays, Dionysis Savvopoulos’s version of “All Along the Watchtower”. However, and this is a warning, if you attempt a version by Dave Matthews Band, Prince, Neil Young,The Grateful Dead, Bryan Ferry, or Pearl Jam, You will get a vat of boiling oil.

          • trujunglist says:

            @pecan 3.14159265:

            I guess mine would be “oh yeah, that’s the asshole that made me get out of his parking spot! wtf was his problem, asking me to move my car to my own, already assigned spot?”

    • Jenni Davids says:


      No, but as a former Census worker and manager (I forget the formal position title), we are required by law to repeatedly visit your house, then get our manager to do so (let me tell you how much I loved to follow this up as the next in line up the chain) until you eventually are home and answer the door. If the homeowner never answers, we’re supposed to extract information about you from your neighbors.

      Really, there are some very nice, very honest people who work for the CB… and like anywhere else, there are those not so-awesome people too, but I like to think they’re thinned out by the screening/application process.

      • CFinWV says:

        @Jenni Davids: Why can’t they just mail you a questionnaire if they can’t get you at the door? I live alone, I don’t like answering the door when I’m not expecting someone.

        • Nathan Oliver says:

          @CFinWV: It actually works the other way around, mostly. They will first contact you through the mail. If you don’t mail the form back, then they’ll show up to ask you the questions in person.

          What’s happening now, however, is the “Address Canvassing” stage, which is necessary to make sure that your house still exists and has the same address, and to find new houses that have been built, houses that have been converted into apartments, etc. That does require a site visit, although if your situation is obvious (posted address, no question about how many living quarters present) then they don’t even need to talk with you–they’ll knock so that they can explain why they’re standing on your porch, but if you don’t answer, they’ll finish up and leave.

      • your new nemesis says:

        @Jenni Davids: I think my neighbor has like 2 husbands, a wife, six children of different ethnic origins, and maybe an animal shelter or a farm or something. I could have fun with this. Oh yeah, she’s a satanist by day and a werewolf by night, but only tuesday nights. The other nights she runs around town with a wheelbarrow yelling “bring out your dead.” She has a busy life.

        • puka_pai says:


          I think my neighbor has like 2 husbands, a wife, six children of different ethnic origins, and maybe an animal shelter or a farm or something.

          I think you live in my neighborhood.

          I’d love to answer questions about my neighbors. The guys on one side only appear every few weeks with several trucks and block all the parking on the street. I think they might be gypsies. I keep hoping one of them looks like Eddie Izzard, but so far no luck.

          The people on the other side appear to have a rotating cast of characters. I’m pretty sure it’s a young woman, occasionally her mom and her little dog, and too many boyfriends to count. It’s always the same couple of cars but it’s never the same guy twice, which is weird enough that I noticed and I’m usually oblivious (or not home enough) to that kinda thing.

          Goodness knows what the neighbors would say about us.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        If the homeowner never answers, we’re supposed to extract information about you from your neighbors.

        @Jenni Davids: Who know absolutely nothing about me.

    • James Alton says:

      “You are not requred by law to answer the door.”
      Unless it’s the police and they have a warrant and you don’t like having your door kicked in.

  13. jdmba says:

    I see … so I am legally bound to tell some random person at my door what I make and whether I live alone and work full time (e.g., am out of my house from 9A -5P). Hmmm … I suspect that I may not be entirely interested in providing that accurately.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @jdmba: Even if you’re legally bound to answer their questions, an appropriate answer to “how much money do you make?” is “That is none of your business.” Depending on your attitude, that may be an appropriate answer to any other personal question as well. ;)

    • fantomesq says:

      @jdmba: No you’re legally required to fill out the census form that is mailed to you. Only failing that are you required to answer their questions. Do the former and avoid the latter.

      • bibliophibian says:

        @fantomesq: I filled out the long form in the 2000 census, and a few months later the census guy (a legit one, I verified) showed up anyway, stating that they hadn’t received it.

        He only asked the short-form questions, and I only answered after I confirmed who he was, but it does happen that someone either fills out the form and it doesn’t get processed correctly, or (as the census guy told me “probably happened” before I assured him that it hadn’t), people who move during the general census season sometimes have problems, such as if the people who lived in the property before them didn’t fill out the form (or if the property was vacant).

      • drjayphd says:

        @fantomesq: Exactly. It actually made the canvassing job easier if you didn’t answer.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @jdmba: No, you are not. The Constitution requires a head-count only for the census. That is all you are obligated to answer. They may lie and threaten you, but you’re within your rights to tell them to f-off. Give them only the information required by the U.S. Constitution: How many people live in this house? That’s it.

  14. HasPonies!Envy_GitEmSteveDave says:

    Just remember that the GPS unit they are using is to let the SWAT teams know where to go. Also, since ZIP codes are actually bombing grid coordinates, this will allow the NWO to artillery your house easier.

    And YES, these are things people actually believe/say on the radio.

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      @HasPonies!Envy_GitEmSteveDave: They’re coming to take me away, HA HA!

    • Anonymous says:

      While this article is interesting it is not too timely and left a lot of wrong impressions. I was a part of the address verification part of the census and it was actually completed in our area about 2 weeks ago, after about 8 weeks of work. It could be that some areeas of the country are just getting started but in our part of Illinois we are all done.

      Yes – easch census employee carried a badge, each employee also carried a black bag which had a large white block on it that indicated that the person was a census employee, they also carried a small handheld computer that was used to enter information into and it had a gps built in that was used to collect an address spot. The address spot was supposed to be collected within 10 feet of the front doorand that is probably what they were doing at kduhtoe’s mothere house. We also had a confidentiality notice that we left at each home where we talked to someone.

      The census workers will NOT ask for SSN, banking or credit card information, nor will they ask for account balances or any money. Should any of these things happen close the door immediately and call 911. DO not under any circumstances provide any of this information to them and for all the folks who read this and have elderly parents please make sure that they understand this.

      What the census worker will ask you is if this is the correct mailing address, is it a single family or multi family unit. They should tell you that they are going to collect a gps spot as close to the front door as possible – they wanted us within 10 feet for that.

      Remember – the actual census is next year. They are just trying to verify every address in the country this year in order to make sure that as many people as possible are counted. Keep in mind that many government programs and grants rely on population data when funding is determined. One other thing to remember is that only general data will be released from the census. Any individual data will be kept confidential and not released for 72 years.

    • Real Cheese Flavor says:

      @49USBPorts_GitEmSteveDave: You forgot to tell everyone that the Census Bureau is no longer a part of the Department of Commerce and is now under the Department of Homeland Security.

    • Nathan Oliver says:

      @49USBPorts_GitEmSteveDave: Not only on the radio, but in person, as well. (Although to be fair, only 1 person made that claim, and about 5 others refused to participate, out of about 600 people who actually answered their door.)

      Also, I secretly work for ACORN, and will purposely undercount them if I think they are Republican.

  15. morlo says:

    Instead of spending $14 billion to send out vagrants to take the census, why not give a few billion to the USPS to do it?

    • Shoelace says:

      @morlo: That might be efficient, but efficiency isn’t allowed. This way the vagrants can case the neighborhood, get a sense of who lives where, owns what, is how old, and is home when.

      I wonder if home burglary rates spike within a few months of each census…

    • Nytmare says:

      @morlo: Because it’s a full time job, and the USPS is already working a full time job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why give them or spend the money to do the census!?
      Its a worthless division of the Gov’t. What does it tell them? How Much you make so the can tax the snot out of you? or how many people are unemployed in this country so they can see what a lousy job our politicians are doing…. Either way… They suck and in the last 6 months they have called me 6 times to “Update”… stopped by 3 times…. and mailed me 1 package…. I have told them a bunch of BS every time…. the only thing that will get the truth is the official paperwork!!!! SUCKAAAAAA!


    • drjayphd says:

      @morlo: Vagrants? Really? How broad is your brush?

      (bites through tongue)

  16. Trencher93 says:

    Can this census thing work in today’s world of home invasions, identity theft, etc? It may have worked in 1791 or whenever they started it, but today I don’t see it working.

    • The Count of Monte Fisto says:

      @Trencher93: Can this census thing work in today’s world of rampant paranoia ?

      Fixed. Not everyone that comes to your door is trying to do you harm; sometimes they’re just taking the census.

  17. krispykrink says:

    I’ve never opened the door for the Census. Then again, I’m never home or awake when they come by.

  18. redskull says:

    I’m sure there’s probably an answer to this that I’m not thinking of, but here goes:

    Couldn’t the Census Bureau get all this info from the IRS? Your tax form asks how many people are in your home, and what you make, etc.

    The tax info wouldn’t give you an exact headcount since there are people don’t pay taxes, but there’s no way the Census can possibly count everyone either.

    Couldn’t the Census dept. team up with the IRS and ask all this stuff on the 1040? Seems like a good way to eliminate some waste.

    • morlo says:

      @redskull: Between credit bureaus, postal addresses, tax rolls, driver’s licenses, property deeds, voter registrations, jury lists, and phone records the government knows exactly where everyone in this country is, except for those who have dropped out of society and shouldn’t be counted anyway. But it’s the government’s job to waste money, so they pretend to count anyway.

      • hellinmyeyes says:

        @morlo: Did we not just get a dose of reality today on the dangers of public data aggregation? Personally, I prefer the Census Bureau to enumerate rather than aggregate and estimate because we get a LOT of valuable economic and demographic data from these surveys and interviews that the scientific community probably could not live without. In short, this one expensive act by the government provides an obscene amount of cheap data that many scientific disciplines can use, share, and interpret on a consistent, par basis. Besides, there’s no telling how much more lying goes on with IRS forms, tax rolls, etc, than with face-to-face interaction and enumeration.

    • MMD says:

      @redskull: I’ve often wondered the same thing. Seems like this would be a heck of a lot more accurate than relying on some neighbor to provide information on you if you’re not home to answer the door (a “method” mentioned above by a proclaimed former Census worker).

      • drjayphd says:

        @MMD: Nah, take “method” out of quotes, that’s specifically what they told us to do this go-around.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @redskull: While conducting an annual census is enshrined in the Constitution, I’m pretty darned sure that compiling phone lists to figure out accurate polling is not.
      And, could you IMAGINE the bruhaha the Conservative wing-nuts would stir up? Geezus, they begin frothing at the mouth when using well-tested, statistical sampling methods. They’d simply defecate over themselves if using any of the methods you describe.

    • Nathan Oliver says:

      @redskull: I was one of the Enumerators for the address canvasing operation. The reason it’s not done that way is confidentiality–no personally identifiable information (PII) given to a census employee is ever shared with any government agency. I’m pretty certain (even more so based on my experiences) that there are many people who will cooperate with the census bureau but would never disclose that information to the IRS/county/state.

      Some people are living in situations that are illegal/not up to code, or haven’t paid taxes, or are living off the land, or otherwise don’t appear on official rolls, etc. Employees of other agencies are sworn to report any violations they find, whereas the Census Bureau Employees are actually sworn NOT to disclose anything, unless it’s an imminent threat. The uber paranoid folks don’t care either way, but there’s a lot of folks in between (myself included) who are a lot more comfortable with the separation.

  19. thomamas says:

    I’ve read that census workers will be “verifying” whether there are additional living quarters in houses this time round. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I assume it means they’ll be coming in and looking around. This would make impersonating a census taker much more attractive than last time, when they just stood on the porch and asked questions.

    • kduhtoe says:

      @thomamas: You are not required to let a census worker or anyone else into your home. Without a warrant.

      • thomamas says:

        @kduhtoe: I’m pretty sure that only applies to sworn law enforcement. For example, police use building inspectors as an end-run around warrant requirements.

        • kduhtoe says:

          @thomamas: You are not required to let a building inspector into your home without a warrant.

          • thomamas says:

            @kduhtoe: The EPA and FCC clearly believe they have they can conduct warrantless administrative searches and jail people for refusing, I don’t see why Census is different.

            • kduhtoe says:

              @thomamas: I don’t think you understand the caliber of people hired by the Census Bureau. These aren’t even trained monkeys. These people have null authority; if you don’t comply to answering questions or “living quarters verification”, all these people are going to do is put a check beside your name and come back later. A uniformed officer isn’t going to show up and say,”Talk to the census, son”.

        • Tankueray says:

          @thomamas: I have right of entry. It says,

          “This is to certify that the below individual is an employee [of my agency] and is empowered by law to enter upon any public or private property in the State in order to make inspections, investigations, and surveys including surveillance, photographing, examination, and copying of records and taking samples as authorize

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @thomamas: I’m not letting any Census worker into my home, under any circumstances. If they want to ask questions about your income, and take your answers as truth, why can’t they just ask about additional living quarters and take your answer at face value?

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: You know, of course, that answering a door knock is quite a different thing than letting them inside, right? :)

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @Trai_Dep: If indeed they’ll be asking to enter my home, as thomamas says, I think I’ll just decline.

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: I think it’s pretty clear that thomamas listens to a lot of AM radio. His cite backs up what everyone else is saying, not what he said.

            • thomamas says:

              @Trai_Dep: I asked a question: what does “Verify” mean.

              I see an increasing number of cases where criminals are pretending to be law enforcement: fake FBI agents carried out home invasion robberies in Florida, fake cops pulled over a woman and tortured her for money in Oakland, the 14 year old boy who faked his way into a patrol assignment in Chicago, and so on. A big reason they get away with it is that it’s no longer allowed to question real law enforcement in any way. Have you ever tried to ask an officer for his badge number or name?

              I see this as a left-wing position, not a right-wing position. Rush seems pretty pro-LEO to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      @thomamas: I had a Census worker come by to verify if there were additional living quarters. She asked me if this household had additional living quarters, I said no. She said she had to just stand there while her hand-held machine grabbed the coordinates of where she was and she entered the address to map the 2 together. Then she said thank you, and took off. I saw her Census Badge hanging around her neck, and the hand-held machine. Don’t remember a canvas bag though.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @thomamas: They will not be coming into my house by invitation, and it’s perilous to come into my house without being invited. Smith, Wesson and the bull terrier don’t care for uninvited guests.

    • bibliophibian says:

      @thomamas: Where did you read/hear this? From a reputable news source, a government agency affiliated with the census, a talking head on the radio, or a random internet message board?

      I might be willing to take it much more seriously if you had some kind – ANY kind – of a source to back it up. As it stands: Hogwash.

    • Nathan Oliver says:

      @thomamas: The phrasing of this seems to be confusing a lot of people online. I was one of the enumerators, and the training I received was that we were to verify that what was on the ground was represented in my computer. It was adequate verification for the person that answered the door to assert that there were no other living quarters(LQs) there, so long as there wasn’t anything that indicated the opposite.

      (If, for example, you had two doorbells with numbers, had curtains in the window over a detached garage, or had two mailboxes, or something of that sort that indicated that there might be multiple LQs, but the person who answered said that there was only one LQ, I was instructed to ask them specifically about whatever it was that I saw. If their answer made sense, then I went on my way, if not then I still took their word for it, but I wrote up a little report that went to my supervisor, and then we discussed what to do about it. (I never had this happen, so I’m not sure what exactly happens from there, but I’d guess that we simply record it as if the other LQs do exist, and go on from there)

      Even if I suspected the person of lying, I was never to enter the LQ to verify the situation. The only time I would ever need to be anywhere except your front porch is if you did have a separate LQ, in which case I would need to mark a GPS point outside the door to that unit as well. There is NO REASON that a census employee who knocks on your door will need to see the inside of your house.

      (I should note that all LQs are defined as having separate access–that is, you can enter them from a public common area. If I would have had to go through your house to get to the door, then it’s not a LQ, and I don’t need to see it. I might need to walk around the outside of the building to the door, but never inside.)

      If you had a long driveway that went past your house, I might have wandered back there to see if there were any houses, but if you answered the door and told me there weren’t, and I had no reason to disbelieve you, then I wouldn’t even do that.

      Hope that makes you feel better about “verifying”.

      • thomamas says:

        @Nathan Oliver: I wouldn’t be particularly eager to give the Feds a tour of my house, but I’m more concerned about opportunistic robbers who can take advantage of the lack of clearness.

        • Nathan Oliver says:

          @thomamas: Agreed. I was actually quite surprised when I saw how little I had to identify myself as a legit employee. The badge is a piece of plastic with the Census Breau seal printed on it, and a textured area on the front (like the one where you sign a credit card) where you printed your name. There were two more areas on the back where the signature of the employee and the date of expiry were also written in by hand. No photo, no hologram, not laminated, nothing. I encountered at least 2 off-duty police officers, and neither were very impressed, though they both let it drop after seeing the badge and taking down my name and Employee ID number.

          As a temp employee, I don’t have any business cards, and my supervisor and I were both working out of our homes–standard practice. About the only thing I could do that seems reasonably credible is give my employee ID# and the phone number of the Regional office about 200 miles from where I live, but all they’d be able to do was verify that there was an employee with that name, and maybe give them the home number of my supervisor–I’ve never met a single person from the regional office.

          That said, of about 600 people who answered the door, only one had any issue with my credentials, so I ended up showing her my Drivers License. Granted, I live in a pretty small community, so most people are pretty trusting.

      • drjayphd says:

        @Nathan Oliver: Yeah, they seemed to spend a lot of time in training talking about situations like that, as opposed to situations that would actually arise where I worked (a modestly-populated city, but urban area nevertheless).

        As far as entering, did they ever address if there was any context where a worker could so much as enter the house (namely, the homeowner, etc. couldn’t actually get to the door)? It was never anything we’d need to ask ourselves, in case anyone’s concerned.

  20. RandomHookup says:

    Just ask them to spell “Census”. That’ll eliminated 85% of the scammers.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Where does the Census have the authority in the first place to gather this information? Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution authorizes only a head count, and the Tenth Amendment states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Therefore this “Census” is illegal.

  22. robocop is bleeding says:

    What is the legal stance of answering only in riddles?

  23. SarcasticDwarf says:

    I hate how even consumerist gives worthless advice like “they will have a badge.” How useful is a badge when the people they are encountering have no way to verify the authenticity. We have no clue what the badge looks like. It could be a thick RFID-based badge, it could be a laminated piece of paper.

    • drjayphd says:

      @SarcasticDwarf: Because the badge doesn’t look like anything notable. A photo would probably make it easier to knock out counterfeits (because they were marginally more substantial than a laminated piece of paper).

  24. halcyondays says:

    I’m not giving anyone I don’t know one shred of information. I don’t care if they have a badge or a canvas tote bag or whatever.

    • MMD says:

      @halcyondays: Agreed! I don’t answer the door for random strangers and invite them in, either.

    • Elvisisdead says:

      @halcyondays: Only answer if they show up in a black helicopter.

      Get over yourself. They’re only asking because they HAVE to. Otherwise nobody gives 2 shits about who you are or anything about you.

      • Red_Flag says:

        @Elvisisdead: Given that the article is about the possibility (dare I say, probability) of scammers impersonating census workers, I’d have to disagree with you. Obviously the scammers give 2 shits. Or do you think the scammers are asking only cuz they have to?

        I have a bridge to sell you. At such a discount!

  25. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    The census worker who came to our apartment guessed that there was an adult white male here (because she saw my boyfriend use a key to go in) and an adult female (because I called her back using the number she left on the door note). She could infer that we had flush toilets and other typical amenities that other apartments in our complex have.

    However, we didn’t want to answer any questions beyond that, and I politely told her please not to come back. Interestingly, she then told me she could simply ask the questions over the phone, and I could simply say “Refused” as my answer if I wanted to.

    She had a nice sense of humor and didn’t waste my time, and I had a good time thinking of all the polite ways to say, “I don’t want to answer that.” So technically, you can answer all of the questions, and that fulfills your legal responsibility, but you aren’t legally required to actually give the information. Tricky. :)

    • kduhtoe says:

      @speedwell, avatar of snark: I like this a lot. I think I will answer 42 to everything.

    • drjayphd says:

      @speedwell, avatar of snark: It’s not the job of a canvasser to care about who lives there, at least at this stage of the Census. This sounds like they’re just talking about address canvassing, so all we need or want to know is about the house. Don’t care if it’s up to code or not, don’t care who lives there… hell, we didn’t have anywhere to even enter that.

  26. ThunderRoad says:

    I thought we only had to answer how many people lived in the house? I have no desire to give any further information to anyone.

    • aikimann says:

      @ThunderRoad: You are correct. The constitution only allows for a census to determine the number of people living in a household, nothing else, which is the only information I plan on giving.

      However, as is quite common, congress has passed laws that are in direct violation of the constitution. In the case of census taking, (unconstitutional) Federal law states that you can be fined up to $100 for refusal to answer the questions and up to $500 for providing false answers.

      From what I understand, no one has ever been prosecuted for refusal to cooperate with a census.

    • bibliophibian says:

      @ThunderRoad: I have no desire to pay my taxes or get my car registration renewed or work every day either, but…

    • drjayphd says:

      @ThunderRoad: That’s a different operation. The point of canvassing is to make sure the surveys go to the right addresses. THAT’S when you answer who lives in the house, etc. As a canvasser, we don’t want to know or, for that matter, care about the residents in this operation.

  27. cmdrsass says:

    everyone should check off “gay eskimo scientologist making 100,000 or more” this time around.

  28. ponycyndi says:

    I worked the 2000 Census. We were trained to hold up our badge and show it when greeting people. We did have a bag, but were not told to carry it with us. We did NOT have any ‘hand held devices’ at that time, but we did have a clipboard with official forms on it to fill out.

    We asked for name/age of persons in the home, what language you speak, and your income. Every 10 houses or so we had to fill out a larger, more detailed form.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I was told that the Census is verifying addresses and using GPS to determine House Locations. I have run into two Census Workers. One came to my sister’s Townhouse and basically just verified the address, wrote in her device and left. The other one came to my house, and just asked for the address, handed me a privacy notice and that was it. I don’t think they are doing anything more until after 2010.

  30. I Love New Jersey says:

    Let’s see:
    a badge can be faked with a computer, printer and laminator
    a handheld device mostly everyone has at least one
    a Census Bureau canvas bag something easily faked or purchased/obtained
    a confidentiality notice can be printed out using aforementioned computer and printer

    At least the ConEd guy has a uniform.

  31. nybiker says:

    The CB person that stopped by a week or so again just wanted to verify that my home was a single family home (it is) and that for the most part so were the rest of the joints on the block (I told her that is correct, too, but afterwards I realized that a couple are actually legitimate 2-family buildings. Oh well). If she took any pictures I didn’t see her do so.

    • Nathan Oliver says:

      @nybiker: Sounds like they were doing Quality Control–there’s a whole crew that goes around the main group and checks randomly selected houses to make sure that the original person actually did the work correctly. (And if they find out that they didn’t, then the QC folks re-do all the addresses that were on the same list.) I get the idea that the primary motive is to make sure that they don’t have some lazy guy who sits at home and makes stuff up rather than actually do the work.

      (I was one of the enumerators for the 2010 census, and finished a week or two ago.)

      • drjayphd says:

        @Nathan Oliver: Mmhmm, that’s exactly what my crew leader said in re: QC. They actually yanked someone off our crew so she could do QC. Lucky bastard. ;)

  32. JesseRPI says:

    No problem here… when we hear a door knock we usually run and hide.

  33. RobertBaron says:

    Let me get this straight. You are required by law to answer the questions truthfully (to your knowledge I would assume) and they will fine you if you don’t. This would imply they have some mechanism in place to verify your info. If that’s the case, why not just use whatever method they’d use to verify your info to get the info they need in the place?

    Or is the whole “answer truthfully or we fine you” just an unenforceable threat?

  34. HogwartsAlum says:

    I actually answered a knock the other day ( just opened the door and kept the storm door locked) and it was a guy with a clipboard who told me he was with GE the utility company.

    He then began asking me questions about who is responsible for the landscaping, etc. I asked him three times to state his business – the last time, rather rudely because he wouldn’t answer me – and he finally said something about putting a sign in my yard. I cut him off and said no I’m not interested. He said, “Okay, I’m going to go talk to your neighbors.” Well, my neighbors are elderly, and I told him “Don’t bother my neighbors.” I watched until he left my property and went down the street (he was on foot). I was pissed because it took longer than I wanted to get rid of the guy.

    I’m never answering the door again. They can read my sign:


    If it’s Census, they can mail me a form.

  35. Caroline Cooper says:

    It’d be lovely if the CB allowed a homeowner to call and authenticate the person at the door. Namely, I’ve never done it but I’ve read that if you’re pulled over you can call a number, read a badge number/name, and vereify the cop is legit. Would put some of our minds at ease to be able to do same with CB workers. Still not letting them see inside my house, but they’ll get more of the “basics” out of me if I could tell for sure they’re legit…

  36. Jessica Haas says:

    Can someone give me a photo of what their ID actually looks like? I imagine people can make fake ones like they do with every other ID.

    This article has me paranoid.

    • Nathan Oliver says:

      @Jessica Haas: They look exactly like the one in the photo on this consumerist story: []

      On the back side, there’s a signature of the employee, and a hand-written expiration date.

      (I was a census employee for the last 2 months.)

  37. thelushie says:

    Alot of people talk about the less than stellar people that they hire who might try to steal their Precious Moments collections, but what about some of the people answering the door. I am not talking about the crazy cat ladies or the neighborhood recluse but some of the more insane types. The guy who answers naked with his hand on his schlong. Or the guy who wants to invite you in and won’t take no for an answer. I hope for safety for all.

    I hope that some of the census workers will start blogs, not to tell about the really insane ones, but to share the funnier stories (and I am sure there are)

    • drjayphd says:

      @thelushie: Since I’d like to not rule out the possibility of future employment, either with the Census or los federales… I’ll pass. Besides, I don’t remember any of the good shit anyways. ;)

  38. shulkman says:

    Wow, there’s some crazy stuff being posted here. Lemme clarify.

    Currently, Census operations are in a stage called “canvassing”. We walk around, with a little computer, verifying the address on the house versus the information on our computer. We take a GPS map spot on the front porch, and we go on our merry way. That’s it. The map spot thing can be considered kinda rediculous in the cities, but in rural areas, it will come in handy in the fututre in case we have to do a follow up appt. We aren’t asking any questions about who lives there, how many, etc. Just wanting to know what the address is, and if there is another address on the property.

  39. Black-Cat says:

    Keep knocking, I’ll be in the hot tub laughing at you.