SHORELINE, Wash. -- Thousands of U.S. Census workers will be hitting the streets starting May 1, and they'll have a few identifying characteristics -- like a Department of Commerce badge and a Census messenger bag.
What they will not be wearing, for the most part, are U.S. Census T-shirts.
But Sue Mills and Laurie Sorenson were still concerned when they saw a bunch on sale for $1.99 at the Goodwill store in Shoreline.
"Laurie saw the shirts hanging on the rack, and we took a look and said, 'Well, these shirts really should not be here,'" said Mills.
But there they were, red Census 2010 polo shirts, the label on the front, the multi-colored hand logo on back. The two found eight shirts, and ended up buying all of them for fear that "anyone could buy one and do with them what they wanted," said Sorenson.
Or, more specifically, that anyone wearing those shirts could look official enough to gain your trust, maybe more.
"They could ask your name, your social security number, your phone number," Mills said.
"Potentially, your personal information getting into the wrong hands," added Sorenson.
A U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman said there is no official "uniform" for census takers -- rather, they are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing that will help them as they walk long distances. However, some may choose to wear Census paraphernalia.
The best way to identify an official Census worker, they said, is to look for the government-issued I.D. badge, which will have the local Census office phone number, and a messenger bag.
Any residents suspicious of the person at their door are encouraged to call the local office to verify the Census taker's identity. A Census taker also will never ask to enter a home, nor ask any questions beyond what is on the official survey, said the bureau.
Sue and Laurie said they're worried not everyone will know that and will take the shirts at face value.
"I don't know where they came from, where else could they be? They could be in thrift stores all over the country," said Mills.
KING 5 stopped by the Shoreline Goodwill and found 20 more of the printed Census shirts, as well as some Census 2010 travel bags.
But when notified, employees immediately took the items off the shelves, while a manager said she'll send an e-mail to all the other Goodwills in the area with a picture of the shirts.
As for where the shirts came from, a Census spokesperson said they were likely promotional items shared with a local partner agency, probably left over from a marketing event, and donated with good intentions.
More tips from the U.S. Census Bureau:
- The Census Bureau does not send e-mails about participating in the 2010 census.
- Workers will NEVER ask for your bank account number, credit card number or any other financial information
- Workers will NEVER ask for a donation or for money
- Workers will NEVER send requests on behalf of a political party
- Workers will NEVER request PIN codes, passwords, logins or any other information that would provide access to your private accounts
- If in doubt, call 425-908-3000 to confirm that the person at your door is a census worker.