U.S. Department of Commerce

Are You In a Survey?

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Is this a legitimate business survey conducted by the Census Bureau?

Any request for survey information from the Census Bureau will be clearly identified on the envelope as coming from the U.S. Census Bureau and as OFFICIAL BUSINESS of the United States.

It is a Federal offense for anyone to pretend they represent the Census Bureau, or any other office of the United States Government. Section 912 of Title 18, U.S. Code, states the following:

"Whoever Falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

Census Bureau surveys look different from other surveys, and we provide information that will help you in answering the census or survey.

When you are in a Census Bureau business survey, we will tell you, generally by letter:

  1. Why the information is needed;
  2. Whether your response is required by law or voluntary, and the applicable laws;
  3. That your response is confidential; and
  4. When your response is due.

If you receive a letter without a paper form, here are a few common items to verify it is a legitimate Census Bureau survey:

  1. Ensure the web address provided in the letter is a "census.gov" domain.
  2. Log in information is provided in the letter. You should never be asked to log in to report data with personal information.
  3. On the log in screen, a warning message should be present stating you are accessing a United States government computer. Additionally, the bottom of the page should have a link for "Burden Statement" that contains the eight-digit OMB number. This number indicates the need to collect the information is approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget.
  4. Once logged in, the OMB eight-digit number and expiration date appears in the lower left corner of each page of the online questionnaire.

If you received an actual survey form in the mail, here are a few common items to verify the paper form is a legitimate Census Bureau survey.

  1. An official survey code: all surveys have a code, such as OMB No. 0607-0763, in the upper right hand corner. This indicates that the questionnaire and the need to collect the information is approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget.
  2. An expiration date: following this official code, there is usually an approval expiration date, meaning the questionnaire and the approval to collect the data will again be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget around the time of the expiration date.
  3. A Census Bureau form number: this is usually located in the upper left corner.
  4. A due date: All questionnaires indicate a specific due date or provide a timeframe (such as, within 30 days of receipt of the form). For some surveys, you may request an extension of the due date if you need more time to complete the form.
  5. A return envelope: most forms are returned to the Census Bureau's National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, IN, but other forms may be addressed to Washington, DC.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Systems Support Division | Last Revised: January 16, 2014