28 Page census survey: scam or legit?

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Have you received a suspicious questionnaire in the mail recently? Well, don't ignore it, because this one is kind of important.

When you get it in the mail it may look a little weird, and then when you open it you might think it's a scammer looking to get your personal information. Turns out, it's legit.

“I’m still trying to clean up my credit from being a credit fraud victim," Elizabeth Wright said.

Wright is extra cautious after having her identity stolen a few years ago.

So when she received something in the mail recently, she was skeptical.

“It's a US Census Bureau Survey from American Community Survey and I don't know who American Community Survey is.  My first thought was, this is a scam," Wright remarked.

The survey asks some very personal information.

“All personal information about your current situation plus your past situation, children, grandchildren, are you disabled are you not disabled how are you paying your bills, it just goes on and on for 28 pages," stated Wright.

That's a lot of information for a scammer.  And the questions, Wright said, are just intrusive.

“My fear in receiving something like this is that someone's gonna take the personal information that's in here and use it and start their own bank information, credit information,” Wright stated.

So Wright contacted 3 On Your Side

“I wanted to make sure that this was not a scam that someone's not out there mailing this as a mass mailing and scamming people into automatically filling it out," Wright said.

We contacted the US Census which confirmed the questionnaire is from the American Community Survey and is mailed out to random households throughout the country.

They claim it's federally mandated and it's so detailed because the information in this survey helps communities plan investments and services along with helping to determine how billions of federal and state funds are distributed each year.

Wright said she was relieved it wasn't a scam, but said even so this survey was a little too much.

“This is very extreme, there's no reason to have all these questions in here about who you are and where you are," Wright noted.

If you don't fill out the 28 page questionnaire, a field representative might be knocking at your door.  If that doesn't work you could be fined.

What is the American Community Survey?

The ACS is an ongoing survey of 2.9 million households per year that provides communities with current information they need to plan investments and services. This information helps determine how billions of dollars in federal and state funds are distributed each year.

To help communities, state governments, and federal programs, the Census Bureau asks questions about the demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of the nation’s population.   

The ACS is conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193. The Census Bureau may use the information it collects only for statistical purposes. Title 13 requires the Census Bureau to keep all information about all respondents strictly confidential.

See more information online here: www.census.gov/acs/www/

Direct link to the Interactive ACS Form: www.census.gov/acs/www/about_the_survey/explore_the_form/

Direct link to the ACS FAQs: askacs.census.gov/