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Yes, the American Community Survey request you got in the mail is real and required by law

A viewer wrote in to First Coast News asking if the envelope she got in the mail was a scam. Let's verify.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An elderly viewer is asking for help verifying if a survey that came in the mail and appears to be a part of the US Census is real. Likely some of you received this as well, but Vickey Turner got nervous that it could be a scam. 

Below is a picture of what she got in the mail. You can see it reads “Your response is required by law.” 

Let’s verify.

Credit: Vickey Turner


Is the American Community Survey real?




  • US Census Bureau
  • Mike Binder, political science professor at the University of North Florida

“The ACS is a 100% legitimate thing but it is useful! Not only for survey researchers but for government allocations," Binder explained. He says his group at the Public Opinion Research Lab use this data every day. 

The American Community Survey is sent out every year, instead of every 10 like the census. 

“Obviously the census gets all the attention every 10 years, but in a lot of ways this provides more information and is used more because it is updated annually," says Binder.

To take extra precautions against giving away personal information, there are ways to contact the Census and verify that what you received is their authentic survey request. 

You can call 1-800-354-7271 to verify. 

You are legally required to respond. There are three laws that the US Census Bureau cites online. 

You are also legally obligated to respond with accurate information. The Census Bureau says you could be fined if you don’t respond, however they don’t outright say that online. 

The Census Bureau’s website explains “Response to the survey is required by law because the American Community Survey is part of the decennial census, replacing the "long form" that previously was sent to a percentage of households once every 10 years.”

“The penalties are mild," Binder said. "You know, it is a $100 fine and to be perfectly honest, I've never heard of anybody actually getting convicted. Not that it hasn’t, but I just haven’t heard of anybody. But that certainly throws you off."

To make it easier to respond to this survey, you can also send your responses in online here.

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