By James Limbach
ConsumerAffairs.com

April 5, 2010
We've all heard and seen the warnings about the possibility of being scammed by purported census takers who are out to steal our identities. But what about those who cheat people looking for honest work taking the government headcount?

With the U.S. Census Bureau filling thousands of temporary, part-time jobs as 2010 Census takers, job seekers should steer clear of anyone who tells them they need to pay in order to get information on how to apply for work on the Census, or any federal job. No one can "guarantee" a federal job in exchange for a fee.

In a new consumer publication, 2010 Census Job Scams , the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides detailed information about applying to become a U.S. Census taker, and it tells consumers how to access all federal job announcements.

2010 census job scams

Some fraud artists are making false statements to job seekers about the availability of census taker positions and other federal job opportunities, and improperly charging fees to assist job seekers in finding jobs. These scammers advertise online and in the classified sections of newspapers, offering -- for a fee -- to help job hunters find and apply for federal jobs. Some fraudulent companies even try to confuse consumers by using names that sound official -- like the "U.S. Agency for Career Advancement."

All federal positions are announced to the public through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's USAJOBS .

The FTC says you never have to pay for information about job vacancies or employment opportunities with the U.S. government. Moreover, federal agencies never charge application fees or guarantee that an applicant will be hired. If positions require a competitive examination, hiring agencies typically offer free sample questions to applicants who sign up for the exam.

Applying for a position

If you're interested in becoming a U.S. Census taker, here's how to apply:

• call the toll-free jobs hotline at 1-866-861-2010 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339);

• use the interactive map at 2010.census.gov to find the local phone number of the census office nearest you; or

• visit the Census job site for the latest open positions in your area (2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs).

You may qualify to be a census taker if you:

• are fluent in English. Bilingual speakers also are encouraged to apply.

• are a U.S. citizen

• are a legal permanent resident, or non-citizen with an appropriate work visa, and you have a bilingual skill for which no qualified U.S. citizens are available

• are at least 18 years old

• have a valid Social Security number

• take a written test of basic skills -- 28 multiple-choice questions designed to measure the basic skills and abilities required to perform a variety of census jobs

• have a valid drivers license

• pass a background check

• commit to four days of training. You will be paid for training days. Training can be held during daytime hours as well as during evening and weekend hours.

Most hiring will take place this spring. Census taker job offers depend on the availability of work in your community, your test score, language skills, veterans' preference, and the number of hours you are available to work each week. Job offers are made by the local Census Office.

As the recession drags on, the FTC is going after scammers who take advantage of those searching for jobs in an environment of high unemployment.