A new scam may have possibly made its way into the area and a local Bonne Terre resident wants others to be warned in case anyone else receives a call like they did.

It started with receiving mail indicating that the Census Bureau wanted a survey to be completed.

After time passed they decided to get online through a web address listed on the papers sent through the U.S. Postal Service. Once on the site, the resident explained that her husband started to fill out the survey online, until he reached a point that he felt it was too personal like: how much money is in your bank account? how much do you get paid? when do you leave for work? what time do you get home from work? how long does it take you to get to work? what is your work address? and what route do you take?

Shortly after, they received a phone call from an 812 area code, with the caller claiming to be from the Census Bureau. After the resident explained that they didn’t feel comfortable answering such personal in-depth questions, the caller began making threats toward them indicating that if they did not cooperate, they would send out authorities to arrest them and they would get prison time for it.

At that point, the couple cooperated and answered the questions completing the survey over the phone out of fear of doing jail time. Once completed the caller told them they no longer needed the paper survey that was sent in the mail and they should shred it.

Upon further investigation of the matter, it was discovered in a reverse phone number look up that the phone number was red flagged as a telemarketer out of New Albany, Indiana, and had more than 500 complaints through several different agencies. There were complaints similar to this particular incident, along with calling at very late hours of the evening, continued calls after being requested to be taken off their call list, and more.

A representative from the U.S. Census Bureau said while they do ask a lot of questions on their American Community Survey, they would never make a threat of jail time to anyone. He also stated they encourage those who have been selected for the survey to participate and that they are not an enforcement agency and making threats of jail time is not their policy.

He felt that some of the questions this couple was asked was in fact out of line and not something that would found on “The American Community Survey.” He said they would never ask the route you take to work or personal bank account numbers.

The Census Bureau has several offices throughout the United States and the one that would service the St. Francois County area is based out of Chicago, Illinois.

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year, giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.

To help communities, state governments, and federal programs, they do ask about, age, sex, race, family and relationships, income and benefits, health insurance, education, veteran status, disabilities, where you work and how you get there (form of transportation), where you live and how much you pay for some essentials.

All these details are combined into statistics that are used to help decide everything from school lunch programs to new hospitals.

A Farmington woman was a target this week of an IRS scam. An individual with a foreign accent identified himself as an IRS worker and provided her with a badge number. He said they had been trying to contact her and had put out a warrant for her arrest after auditing her taxes from 2008 on. He said she owed $3,900 and she had to pay it that day to be avoid being arrested. 

She said she didn't have that kind of money and began asking questions about the audit. He turned her over to a manager who said she had been audited for a period beginning in 2002. 

"It was kind of scary at first and then I thought this can't be real," she said, adding that the only information she provided was her name. 

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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