My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Census shirts for sale create a situation that makes fraud all too easy…

H/t to KING5.com who provided us with the first glimpse of a story that we will likely encounter at many other places in coming months. For more than a year now, MyTwoCensus has been concerned that the dinky canvass tote bags and non-photo IDs of Census Bureau employees do not serve as proper identification of government employees:

by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 30, 2010 at 11:15 PM

SHORELINE, Wash. — Thousand of U.S. Census workers will be hitting the streets starting May 1, and they’ll have a few identifying characteristics — 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.

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26 Responses to “Census shirts for sale create a situation that makes fraud all too easy…”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for posting this article quickly. There has been fraudulent census people in our area, too. We see this on our local TV news and local newspapers. The LCO AND RCC offices do not tell us.

  2. Senseless Says:

    We were given shirts at an RCC training event. They said they were left over from partnership. Also saying the black bags are to identify the workers is foolish. I have at least 10 of them laying around the house. One new enumerator said he used his for bringing home groceries from the store. Thanks for letting people know what is really happening with the census.

  3. Trying2MakeSenseof2010Census Says:

    The bags are cheap and not roomy enough for the superfluous Kafka-esque paperwork. Why our id badges do not include a pix is beyond comprehension. On one of the many days when we were being yelled at by ths vile disgusting person from DC East LCO she insisted that we NOT bring our purses, wallets or “other personal” items. 15 minutes later she insisted we have our photo id’s like licenses or passports in case anyone wanted to verify we were who we said we were when going door to door.

    Already suspect fraud via phone interviews. I had two NRFU’s call to tell me (after I had left a notice of visit form on their door) that someone who identified themselves as a rep from the Decennial Census called them in March and inquiring if they would prefer to do the questionnaire over the phone rather than via mail. Both of these people allege they did the questionnaire on the phone but cannot recall if this person was from a DC office or the head office in Philly. Neither person could recall a name.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  4. Nylonsandcigarettes Says:

    Hate to sound authoritarian, but anyone collecting these at home, using them for mail, groceries or anything other than their assignment, is in violation of Bureau protocol, presumably having agreed to our ethics rules regarding personal use of government property on admin day. The Census portfolio, as the badge, is a controlled item: it is to be assigned field personnel at the beginning of their assignment and returned to the CL at the end; those still serviceable are to be returned to NPC; those not, cut into quarters and disposed of, per directive of the Bureau.

    I saw one of these on ebay awhile ago, and bought it- it turned out to be a c***ppy seller who doesn’t deliver anyway; another ad had one of these and, in the text, “10 unissued enumerator badges”. They didn’t answer either. I wrote to Census, didn’t hear nothin’ (in typical Bureau fashion), and then to FBI.

    I REALLY hate to sound legalistic, but these things do comprise our credentials.

    In our LCO, one of the recruiting clerks popped up with one. Clerks don’t get them. I saw his citibank payment envelope sticking out of it, as well as his other goodies for daily life in the world. When I asked where he got it, he said the AMR had said he had a couple returned, and this was one. I mind the supply for our LCO, and went for a look- BINGO!- two kits we had were now bagless, though someone thoughtfully left their contents in the box.

    Returned from the field? Somebody’s lying… And a Federal employee, wearing this flag…

    People abuse this place right and left: I’ve seen boxes of our paperclips at one guy’s church office, 2 letter openers at the receptionist’s home, markers carried around as someone’s personal, bottomless supply, and the bags are a great souvenir- I sent 7 out for some press thing on a Friday- I was handed back 5 on Monday. With all the swag we throw out- cups, teeshirts, goodiebags, I expect to see a whole uniform on a streetwalker.

    We hire a bazillion people at a go; non-photo ID is quicker, I suppose. We hire off the street from a few pages of BC-170D, not 32 of SF-86. We were just lucky to get a couple dedicated, career leadership RTs, AMA and LCOM, with our standards. The higher levels of badge come with a scary admonition against forgeries; these others are just stuff-

    But it is special stuff, and the sworn employee assigned (or just handing it out) could be prudent in its handling. Mine are either locked up or hidden somewhere- the AMT has his own key and just lets anyone in, regardless of my time on or off- and constant vigilance against pilfering idiots is the rule. I don’t know what someone is doing carrying off any, especially so many bags (unless they were from ebay, too… hardeharhar)- what’s going on at Census seems to be that people don’t care as much about their jobs…

    ….as having our cool stuff lying around the house. We can all show a bit of attentiveness to the standard we in turn hold this agency to, and I would encourage people to take their jobs seriously, lest we actually earn all the badmouthing we’re getting. We can be only as credible as we choose to make ourselves; setting our own bar above reproach is where we start.

  5. LCO-AM Says:

    Partnership dumped thousands of Census 2010 tee shirts in our area.

    They were given away for promotional purposes.

  6. LCO-AM Says:

    Badges, bags, all Census property and we do our best to make sure everything is returned by everyone at the end of every operation.

    Taking anything is like stealing, I have to agree with a lot of what Nylonsandcigarettes is saying.

  7. Senseless Says:

    Let me clarify, I did NOT steal census bags! I received one at each operation I worked in. I was told in my LCO not to return them. I was also issued a bag when in the RCC & LCO offices. I am not using the bags for anything other than census business. The others are simply laying around my house.

  8. pamela Says:

    One of the greatest FRAUDS in the Census is the “Partnership” division. They rarely do what the are suppose to do except claim overtime, overnight expenses, and claim others work as their own. This in order to “justify themselves and the non-work they produce. Yet when this is over they will try and make another buck by selling these items on ebay, craigslist and at flea markets. Partnership is a scandal that the Census would rather not talk about but ask most any LCO what they’ve done for them lately and the answer will be “not much”.

  9. TR Says:

    The problem with photo IDs is very obvious… logistics. During the big operations (Address Canvassing and NRFU) there are many, many training sessions happening simultaneously at different locations. How do you suggest they handle taking photos and printing badges at all these locations?

    Should each site get a photo ID printing system (expensive!)?

    Should each trainee have to go to a centralized location to get a badge (stupid, lots of travel for every employee, too much work for LCO)?

    Should someone from the LCO shuttle around such a system to each training site (time consuming; potential for not everyone to have a badge in time)?

    Should photos be taken at the training sites and sent back to a centralized location (LCO/ELCO/RCC) for printing (potential for fraud; we’ve already heard how swamped LCOs are with work at this point, so badges may not be printed in time)?

    Plus, for the smaller operations, training can take as little as 2-3 days. That may not be enough time for everyone to get IDs.

    It’s not a very practical thing, and would take a lot of planning. And frankly, do you trust the Census’ IT department to implement a reliable photo ID system? I guarantee if they tried, it’d fail and they’d have fall back on the generic IDs.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Our census bags and training materials had to stay in the training room – we weren’t allowed to take anything home (including badges).

  11. Nylonsandcigarettes Says:

    Senseless illuminates a good point. We attract a load of people who have no ethic at all; and his/her example makes sense (moniker notwithstanding) as having just been there and done as assigned. You’ll be pleased to hear that the person handing back fewer bags than I gave out was our LCOM himself- five went to that great leak in the dike- Partnership- and two to him- for some press event. He said “Here you go” handing me the five when I asked for them all- and of course a clerk won’t question the boss… much as I like him personally as well as professionally.
    The CL should stay on top of it. Senseless’s apparently did not, and I apologize for his/her and anyone else’s getting caught in my “by the book” blast who doesn’t deserve to be. I read posts regarding competence at upper levels, and this is one of the bumps- just as with the “dispose but keep enough for the unforeseen” memo- this is another example- illuminated well by the posters, of really poor planning at some official level or another.
    I’ve had people come running in to supply to say they just heard they needed something, as they go into their own training sessions as CLs, that they heard nothing of in their few days of study. Some CLs might be total NSA, with nothing going out of the room- and others may simply not know better and just let everything out.
    It’d make sense to me (and maybe this is Senseless’ point)- if they got this straight at the top of the song. Some things really are “do this but do that” and it’s easy to see how it gets confused along the way, making it easier for anyone to slip through the seams and actually steal things (like the receptionist who always complained that people take HER supplies).
    TR is spot on, too, with the logistics nightmare- just look at fingerprinting as a parallel-
    There was a complaint that the cards didn’t work well for entry at data capture, so they brought in a pricey livescan setup. One directive the AMA told me was that the gurus figured at one time to use the computer-based livescan, then print to paper- then send these to data capture… STILL capturing from paper(!)- only now with an added link to botch up. Maybe a Harris carrier pigeon could be next… so don’t even dream of photos for a thousand people in a day or two unless you want to look like the guys in the credit card ID theft ad…
    (the photo thing would run into the RCC IT wizards too- they put together and tested the printers they sent out for the livescan- then pulled the inks out- so all the toner went all over the inside of the machines and then they had to Fedex a trick little vacuum cleaner around to clean it all out. They hadn’t even put all the packaging back with some,, so the whole printer just sort of banged around in the box on the truck… and they went to what school and get paid how much? I think a lot of the attitude here is based on the fact that we can’t take some of this seriously at all, so why should anyone care- though a lot of us try to… it’s really comical to step back and look at some of our operation)
    I see someone with no Bureau business (through our office at least) riding her bicycle around daily while wearing a Census giveaway backpack thing to collect her bottles in- but then we were supposed to give this stuff out like it was on fire… we had those touring van stops at which you could collect all seventeen whatevers. Partnership was saturating the public with squeezyballs, BBQ aprons and paperclip dispensers and we were lucky if we got a notepad- but then- they were told to by someone else. The public has more access to some of our stuff than we do inside, those teeshirts at the thrift store are an example- a few of our people had them; most were given out. Even the RA IDs- the badge worn by recruiting assistants out giving their tests and hyping the public on our hiring- and looks similar to the other non-photo jobs- when IDs are supposed to be collected, turned in and destroyed- are supposed to be recycled in this disposition memo- if you or I did it, we’d be shot for a security breach. That’s not people at Senseless’ or my level- that’s from the top itself.
    What we all seem to land on is a lack of cohesive direction here, from throwing around ID stuff- such as the bags that probably really were given Senseless, to branding anyone who shouldn’t be with a Census teeshirt that the real Census people also wear- to denying personal ID- and then demanding it be carried- as in Trying2′s example. The cheapo deluxe badges make sense if Census itself could protect them better, as with any other “official-looking” stuff. (You know- that little paperclip house thing was way harder for us to get in the office than one of our teeshirts was for the homeless guy I saw… :-)
    If they hadn’t already done Anyone Can Whistle, maybe WE could, with everyone in Census gear that Angela Lansbury and her staff give out to get people to send in their questionnaires or something… They could sing “Me and My Count”, “The Questionnaire Chase” [--"Fill the form, send it in, there we are: 309,189,178 to go...."]…”A Census in Town”…
    There- don’t you feel happier to work here already?

  12. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Love the Anyone Can Whistle reference. I rarely talk about this on here but I’m a huge Sondheim aficionado! On a more serious note, there are many problems that must be addressed!

  13. Dairyland CL Says:

    Photo ID’s should have been a breeze. I have worked on security contracts where we we fingerprinted and photographed in ten minutes for photo ID’s with a thumbprint. That was in the 1970′s. Come on already!

  14. Senseless Says:

    LCO AM’s and above do have photo ID’s. We were told to have passport photos taken and submitted 2 weeks in advance of training. When we arrived at training half the badges were missing. We were told that they would be completed and sent FedEx to our next location. Badges were sent to the wrong location again and it took 3 tries to get them to the right people.

  15. LCO-AM Says:

    Pamela nailed it.

    Partnership should be audited in a very critical way – they are one of the larger wastes of taxpayer money in far too many ways.

    I’d like to see their money trail – but it does not get too far from home, if you know what I mean.

  16. LCO-AM Says:

    Nylonsandcigarettes mentioned the livescan-scam – we’ve got two collecting dust at our LCO……

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Two “partnership” people in our training class. They had Sprint telephones paid for by the Census, hats, bright colored messenger bags and supplies, polo shirts. They talked about per diem expenses, meals, hotels. Expenses were unlimited for them.

  18. My Two Census » Blog Archive » MyTwoCensus Investigation: Census Bureau’s lack of photo IDs for employees and use of cheap black canvas bags as “uniforms” aid scammers because impersonating a Census Bureau enumerator is all t Says:

    [...] Sunday, I discovered an alarming piece of news from Washington state: Census Bureau polo shirts and black canvass bags were on sale at a local Goodwill store. As Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director [...]

  19. Anonymous NE Tri-state area Says:

    Partnership in the NY Region was the biggest waste of money to date….supposedly they attended functions, parades etc….yet when time came for the LCO to go to the “partners” that were supposedly made by Partnership, they had NO idea who they were….the time sheets for these so called partenrship workers were obscene…travel expenses, mileage etc by the boat load

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous NE is correct. Partners were bragging in class about their UNLIMITED EXPENSES.

  21. Anonymous NE Tri-state area Says:

    Agreed Anonymous……the amount of $$$ approved at the Partnership level was off the charts…supervisors and team leads regularly approved any time sheet, no questions asked…..consistently late time sheets, and lack of audits on the time sheets…and THEN they are promised jobs when their portion of their job is ended..

  22. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    The stimulus plan allocated $250 million for “communications” and “outreach.” Nobody knew what to do with the $$$$.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous NE is correct. The partnership people are working in NRFU operations. Can we apply for partnership jobs in the next 2020 Census?

  24. Anonymous NE Tri-state area Says:

    It was made CRYSTAL CLEAR” at the LCO level to bring these partnership people on to the NRFU operation…actually special provisions were made here in the NY area to get these partnership people brought on….and OH BY THE WAY…the supposedly hallowed ground of “CCM” which, as we were told eons ago, could not go back to the field operations in the LCO (conflict of interest, etc etc) had numerous ex-CCM employees working on the “other side”…very interesting

  25. Anonymous NE Tri-state area Says:

    It’s a shame Stephen that the $$$ supposedly allotted to “communications, etc” was wasted on Partnership nonsense….as we found out in speaking with many of the so-called partners out there, these churches, centers etc. were promised money from Partnership which never happened…and the LCO received the brunt of it…..

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