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Census Bureau text about survey: is it legitimate?

The message typically asks for your help in understanding “challenges in the current economy,” and provides a link to click
Posted at 10:44 PM, May 21, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Have you received a text message claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau?

It typically asks for your help in understanding “challenges in the current economy,” and provides a link to click.

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney shared the text messages with the U.S. Census Bureau to find out if they are legitimate or not.

Jenny Childs, a Senior Statistician for Demographic Research at U.S. Census Bureau, said the Household Pulse Survey uses the number 39242 to send a link to complete the survey online.

If the text message comes from the 39242 number, it is legitimate, according to the Census.

“If you Google that number, it will come to one of the Census Bureau web pages and it will describe this survey in depth,” said Childs.

The Household Pulse Survey began during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew that we needed to measure social and economic impacts of the pandemic for however long it lasted,” said Childs. “We established a survey that was primarily to contact people via text message and email. So that way it was a no-contact survey."

If you get a text message with a link, you typically have 4 weeks to respond.

“We get permission from the Office of Management and Budget to keep running the survey quarterly,” said Childs.

Childs said the U.S. Census Bureau has not received any reports of scammers trying to emulate the survey texts.

“We have had people question their legitimacy and that's totally fine,” said Childs. “I would always verify instead of just clicking immediately."

The Household Pulse Survey is only text message and email, and does not include door-to-door visits or letters through the mail.

"It's really important that each person responds to the Census survey so we can get a good idea of what is happening with the population,” said Childs.

The Census shares the data with government agencies who provide services to Americans.

“Without that information, agencies that do provide services won't have the information that they need,” said Childs.


Washington, D.C. skyline Capitol Hill
The Washington skyline, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Household Pulse Survey takes about 20 minutes to fill out and may ask about the following topics:

The HPS also asks about core demographic household characteristics (including sexual orientation and gender identity), as well as the following topics:

  • Access to infant formula
  • Children’s mental health treatment
  • COVID-19 vaccinations and long COVID symptoms and impact
  • Education, specifically K-12 enrollment
  • Childcare arrangements
  • Employment
  • Food sufficiency
  • Housing security
  • Household spending, including energy expenditures and consumption
  • Inflation concerns and changes in behavior due to increasing prices
  • Physical and mental health
  • Feelings of pressure to move from rental home
  • Transportation, including behavioral changes related to the cost of gas
  • Health insurance coverage (including Medicaid)
  • Social isolation
  • Participation with the arts
  • Impact of living through natural disasters

The Census Bureau never asks for:

  • your full Social Security number
  • money or donations
  • anything on behalf of a political party
  • your full bank or credit card account numbers
  • your mother’s maiden name

Emails from the Census Bureau are sent from the official domain.


Any links included in a Census Bureau email will direct you to an official federal government website ending in .gov.