TREASURE VALLEY - With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau advises residents to be cooperative - but cautious - to avoid being a victim of fraud or identity theft

The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 census workers will count every person in the U.S. And will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data.

To avoid potential fraud, the BBB offers these guidelines to differentiate a U.S. Census worker and a con artist.

N If a census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and badge before answering any questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don't know into your home.

N The Census Bureau has decided not to work with ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) on gathering this information. No Acorn worker should approach you saying he or she is with the Census Bureau.

N Eventually, census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or at home. However, the Census Bureau will not contact you be email, so be on the lookout for email scams. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an email that claim to be from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more advice on avoiding identify theft and fraud, visit www.bbb.org.

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