The American Community Survey? Yup.

By Don Rush

So the other week I had a local lady come visit me at my Oxford office. She had (maybe still has) some issues about something she and her husband received in the mail. Let’s call her “Virginia.”
“Don,” said Virginia with obvious concern in her voice. “I got this survey in the mail and it says it’s from the United States Census Bureau. My husband and I already filled out our Census information. This looks like a scam.”
“Well, let me take a peek at it,” I replied with earnest to the 70-ish year old woman.
“It says right here ‘you are required by U.S. law to respond to the survey,’” she said, adding, “They keep on sending me post cards telling us to fill this out. They want to know a lot of personal and sensitive information. Is this a scam?”
I looked at her packet — the American Community Survey, photocopied some pages, thanked her and added myself, “Yeah, I’ve never heard of this and there are a ton of scammers out there. It does seem fishy, but I will look into it.”
The survey itself asked for filler-outers to add their first and last names and their phone number. Later on it will ask for people’s birthdays. There’s a bunch of stuff on race, household bills like utilities; do you live in a house, apartment, mobile home or condo? What is the house payment, do you own it, what is rent? What would the home and lot sell for if it were for sale? Of course, there are things on taxes, education, ancestry, health insurance. Did the person work last week, if so what’s the address where they worked and what’s your income for the last 12 months.
Yeah, I repeated to myself that does sound kind of invasive and it sure would be easy for the information provided to be used wrongly. I hopped online and here’s what I found out.
1. Yup. The US Census Bureau did randomly select addresses across the country to receive the survey.
2. Our local lady of concern (Virginia) wasn’t the only person who was suspicious of this. When I “googled” the survey one of the first things I saw was “Is the American Community Census legitimate?” They must have had so many questions they had to write about it. About a year ago the Federal Trade Commission wrote a blog headlined, “Is the American Community Survey legit?” The first paragraph of the blog stated, “Here at the FTC, we always tell people to use caution when someone they don’t know asks them for personal information. So it’s not surprising that people are asking questions about mailings and phone calls they’re getting about the American Community Survey (ACS).”
3. Like Virginia, I too had filled out my Census information when it was first sent out so we were confused about all the extra new attention by the Census folks. What I did not know is if we hadn’t filled out the Census we could be fined up to $100; $500 if we provided false information. Do you know what the “law” says about the American Community Survey? Get a load of this malarkey.
“Those who decline to complete the survey may receive visits to their homes from Census Bureau personnel. Because it is a mandatory survey, it is governed by federal laws that could impose a fine of as much as $5,000 for refusing to participate . . .” They must really want all that personal information. Surprisingly they didn’t ask for bank account numbers.
(Of course, there was this note, too: “To date, no person has been prosecuted for refusing to answer the ACS.”)
So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and the US Government really wants your information. They want it bad.
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Well, last week I had a little bit of fun with the British side of the English language. It was a little fluff piece I headlined, There was a little kerfuffle down there. The word kerfuffle was a word I heard used by a British announcer called the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Since it was just a little bit of fun, I thought it would go down quietly into the pages of Don’tRushMedom, soon to be forgotten and for sure garnering no responses. But, hey — once again I was wrong!
“Don, with respect to ‘Don’t Rush Me’ of 11/10/21 (yes, due to leaf harvest, I’m that far behind), you, sir, are daft…delightfully so but daft nevertheless! Steve.”
And, from, “Don Rush’s column, “There was a little kerfuffle down there.” Thank you, Don, for a great read. You were “spot on.” — RJ
Thanks for reading everybody and thanks for your commentary!
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