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3/1/2010
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Symantec Warns Of Online Census Scams

The U.S. Census Bureau has no plans to collect any information over the Internet.

Security vendor Symantec is warning U.S. residents not to be duped by cyber criminals who may use the upcoming collection of information for the U.S. Census to steal personal information.

In a blog post, the security vendor advised people not to fill out anything online or click on any links in e-mails related to the census because those communications are likely to be fraudulent.

The U.S. government is expected to begin sending census forms via snail mail this month to every residence in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. 2010 Web site. If forms are not returned in the time allotted, a census taker may pay a visit to a residence to collect information.

The U.S. Census Bureau does not plan to collect any resident information over the Internet, which is why Symantec is warning people not to respond immediately to anyone asking for it.

"The census will primarily be a paper and pencil process, with no part of the census form available to be filled out online," Symantec said in a blog post on its Security Response site. "So, we encourage computer users to be very wary of any online communications -- including emails and social networking messages -- that they receive regarding the census, particularly any that ask them to click on a link or URL, open an attachment or respond with personal information, because these could very likely be scams."

In particular, Symantec fears hackers may try to spread malware via links embedded in e-mails sent out to people asking them for information related to the census.

Symantec advises anyone receiving an e-mail related to the census to call the U.S. Census Bureau before taking any action.

The company also has posted a list of census questions in the blog post so people can better identify attempts at possible online fraud.

The U.S. takes a census to collect demographic information every 10 years. As it rapidly readies itself to count everyone in the country, the U.S. Census Bureau has tentatively begun tapping cloud computing to reduce the cost and accelerate delivery of its services to its employees and the public.

More information about the 2010 census can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau Web site.

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