A fake e-mail is being forwarded around that appears to be from the Better Business Bureau, warning Iowans to take precautions with the approach of the U.S. Census. Chris Coleman, president of the Greater Iowa Better Business Bureau, says the e-mail is –not— from his organization and contains both legitimate advice and false claims. Coleman wants to set the record straight.

“In March of 2010, every resident will get a questionnaire with ten simple questions,” Coleman says. “If you fill that out and return it, no one will come visit you.” If you don’t mail the form back, you may be visited by a census worker, who will ask you the same questions that were on the form.

If you don’t fill out the form, Coleman says the Census will not try to e-mail you as nothing is being done over the Internet. He says an official Census worker may come to your door — he or she will have an I-D, a badge, a bag with a logo on it and will be using a hand-held electronic device.

Coleman says the census taker will provide you with supervisor contact information or the local Census office phone number for verification, if asked. He says you’ll only be asked the questions from the form, nothing else. “Even the Census workers will only ask ten simple questions: name, gender, race, ethnicity, relationships, whether you own or rent your house,” Coleman says.

“They will not ask for your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number. They’ll never solicit donations and they will never tell you that you can pay off debt.” Coleman says the Census Bureau safeguards all census responses to the highest security standards available.

“There’s 1.4-million U.S. Census workers and they’re all obliged to keep this information confidential,” Coleman says. “Don’t be afraid to participate but be careful and verify when you receive something in the mail or when somebody knocks on your door.” Those door-to-door visits will run April through July.

Your answers are protected by law and are not shared with anyone. The census taker who collects your information is sworn for life to protect your data under federal law. Those who violate the oath face criminal penalties, a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both. About $85 million in taxpayer dollars are saved for every one-percent increase in mail response. For more information, visit “www.bbb.com” or “www.2010census.gov“.