1940 census raises concern about identity theft, but offers much more interesting information

The 1940 census release caused an onslaught of visitors to the National Archives Web site.

WRITTEN BY: Brittney Elkins
The 1940 census was released to online Monday April 2. Posters, like the one above from the mid-1940s, instructed Americans how to participate in the mandatory census.
Image Source: National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons
The 1940 census was released to online Monday April 2. Posters, like the one above from the mid-1940s, instructed Americans how to participate in the mandatory census.

The 1940 census is now online, and it reveals more than just America’s obsession with everything genealogical and “retro.”

Americans are flocking to the 1940 census site to check out the newly-available records. The Associated Press reported that the U.S. National Archives site registered more than 22 million hits in just a little more than four hours on Monday. At 5 p.m. the website had received 37 million hits since the information was made available at 9 a.m.

The census had not been made available because the government holds a 72 year confidentiality policy. Now that it has expired, the government has made the information available to the public.

But some claim that the release of the 1940 census is going to be a heyday for identity thieves and con artists. Senior citizens are often fall victim to identity theft and con artists, and many people are still alive whose names were in the 1940 census.

Many banks also use information such as your mother’s maiden name or the name of the street you grew up on as identifiers for your account. Some think that the 1940 census information may cause an influx of personal information being released into the wrong hands.

One way con artists use this information is to lull the victim into a false sense of security. If the person on the other end of the line knows this much personal information about me, they must be legit, right? Wrong.

Once they obtain a certain amount of information about you, identity thieves often try to con you into giving them more information.

Never give out personal information on the phone or via email.  If someone says they are from a bank, get their number and call them back. If they won’t give you their number, you shouldn’t give them any numbers either.

But the 1940 census is sharing much more interesting information than 72-year-old addresses.

For example, California led the United States in education. The Golden State’s entire population was 6.9 million in 1940, which is less than all of Los Angeles County today.

The 1940 census is also a treasure trove of information for those who wish to discover more about their ancestry. Americans have become enthralled with genealogy sites in past years, and this release will certainly help fill in some blanks about where we come from.

More than 120,000 fact-gatherers, known as “enumerators,” were sent out during the 1940 census to gather information.

Check out the National Archives to find out what questions were asked and more information about the 1940 census.

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