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Recognizing fraud important for census takers

Staff writer

With 2020’s census approaching, being able to spot real census workers will be key to avoid being ripped off, Marion police chief Clinton Jeffrey said.

“It’s probably just scammers looking for whatever scam is popular at this point,” he said. “The census seems like it would be a good one to exploit for financial gain.”

Indicators of attempts at fraud are requests for Social Security numbers, bank account information, or money, which U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t ask for.

“They just prey on the elderly people who have money a lot of the time,” Jeffrey said. “The younger people don’t necessarily have that financial stability, so they aren’t picked on nearly as much.”

A census bureau worker will have photo identification badge with a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.

Checking credentials is a crucial preventative measure, said Anthony Roy, Hillsboro’s economic development director.

“I’m not personally concerned about it,” he said. “If I have someone who comes to my house and says they’re from the census bureau, I’m going to ask for the ID badge anyway.”

Residents’ awareness is a factor in favor of local communities, Jeffrey said.

“It’s been a little while since we’ve had a big scam that someone fell for,” he said. “Usually it’s the elderly.”

The bureau now has an online message board where users can discuss census concerns.

However, many people who will have a problem lack social media access, Jeffrey said.

“Social media is a good thing, but a lot of people who are vulnerable to these things are elderly people, and they don’t have stuff like that,” he said. “Figuring out a way to get it across to them would be a good thing.”

The census is critical to small towns because each household not counted could cost a community nearly $50,000 over 10 years, Roy said.

“If we can show growth, any amount, that’s huge,” he said. “That puts us in a group of communities in Kansas, and there aren’t a lot in that group. You’re talking about Wichita and some of the suburbs, and the Kansas City area. Outside of that there are just a handful that will show any kind of growth.

While he felt positive about local growth in the last year, Roy said recent business changes make him less sure of census results.

“I’m not sure that we’re going to have growth or not. I don’t expect that if it’s a decrease it will be a large one,”

Wendi Stark, Kansas League of Municipalities’ census outreach manager will make a trip Feb. 18 to Hillsboro to answer questions about this year’s census.

Last modified Feb. 6, 2020

 

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