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Protect your identity – it’s census time

The United States Constitution requires a count every 10 years of the number of people living in the U.S. The next count is scheduled for April 2010.The U.S. Census Bureau will mail the 2010 census form to every residence in the United States and Puerto Rico. According to, households that do not mail the form back could be visited in person by a census worker or contacted by phone to schedule a visit.And there’s a rub: While visionary, the Constitution’s framers didn’t foresee identity theft.According to the Colorado Springs Police Department Web site, Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for identity theft per person, with identity theft rising in Colorado Springs 95.4 percent from 2000 to 2004.With the growth in identity theft, organizations like the Better Business Bureau have been working hard to educate the public about the danger of giving personal information to strangers who appear on their doorstep or people calling on the phone.”But the census is the exception,” said Katie Carrol, director of media relations and communications for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.To prepare for the census, census workers have already been verifying street addresses, and, when necessary, knocking on doors.”If a U.S. census worker does knock at your door, they’re going to have a badge, a hand-held device, a Census Bureau canvass bag and a confidentiality notice,” Carrol said.”You need to ask for their identification and their badge;” but, she added, “Don’t invite people you don’t know into your home.”So far, the BBB is not aware of anyone who has tried to impersonate a census worker in the Colorado Springs area, but in some states Carrol said the police have issued warnings.The 2010 census form is easier to fill out than the form from 10 years ago, according to the Web site. It includes just 10 questions – name, sex, age, date of birth, Hispanic origin, race and household relationships and whether a residence is owned or rented.As for financial questions, Carrol said the census workers won’t ask for “sensitive financial information,” like social security, bank account or credit card numbers.”They’ll only ask for salary range, but not your actual salary,” she said.Also, census workers won’t contact anyone by e-mail, so beware of bogus e-mails from impersonators, she said. “Don’t click on any link or any attachment in any e-mail that claims to be from the Census Bureau,” Carrol said.In addition to the 10-year census, the Census Bureau also conducts a variety of censuses and surveys every month, every quarter and every year,” said Connie Burhenn of the Census Bureau office in Colorado Springs.Suspicious contacts by purported census workers should be reported to the Census Bureau’s national processing center at 1-866-226-2864, Burhenn said. If something suspicious is sent by mail, the Census Bureau needs the survey’s name and the return address.Any phone surveys the bureau conducts always include the name of the caller, the area from which the call is being made, the caller’s phone number and a case ID, she said.Information gathered by the census will be used to distribute more than $400 billion in taxpayer dollars to hospitals, job training centers, schools and senior centers, as well as providing funds for emergency services, bridges and other public works projects.Census data is also used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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