As the Better Business Bureau recently warned, scam artists, are gearing up for the Presidential election season. So what pitfalls do consumers face during the final stretch of campaigning, on computers and on the phone? Recently, we’ve seen examples of phony phone calls, and phony websites seeking donations, and there may be more to come. Here are some of the 2022 political election scams that you need to avoid while casting your vote for your favorite presidential candidate.
What are Election Scammers Aiming at?
Scammers are apt to employ ANY hot topic as a hook to catch the gullible, tricking people into downloading malware, giving up personal information, money, or both. You might receive a message that looks like it came from a trusted source, inviting you to participate in a poll or make a donation. The BBB said tricksters might be out to get your passwords, account numbers, social security number or other data. The BBB has tips on how to identify a fake text message.
How to Spot an Election Scam?
Campaign fundraising scam
Phone calls, texts, and emails purporting to be from an election committee or political representative may seem legitimate if they know your political affiliation and their caller ID or sender name looks like it’s from a political organization. Before you donate, write down the contact information and research the organization online to confirm that it’s a legitimate organization. You may want to consider giving directly through an official website rather than on the phone, but make sure the page where you enter your credit card is secure.
Voter registration scam
Claims that you need to register again for absentee ballots or if you haven’t voted since the last presidential election can be dismissed out of hand. The only time you need to register anew is if you move to a new address. Don’t provide personal information to register until you’ve checked with the state or local election board to determine whether your registration is on file.
Election survey scam
Calls asking you to participate in a survey regarding a political campaign are very common, and you’re not obligated to answer. But they should never ask you for your bank, credit card or other sensitive personal financial information. If they say you might win a prize but must enter your credit card to cover taxes, it’s probably a scam and you shouldn’t give them the information.
Vote by a phone scam
The only legal method of voting in a general election is at an official polling place, the election board or by mailing in an absentee ballot obtained from the election board. If you receive a phone call asking you to vote over the phone, hang up.
This scam uses real audio clips of candidates’ voices, likely lifted from speeches or media interviews. Digital technology has made these recordings sound very realistic. At some point, the candidate will ask for a donation and request that you push a button to be redirected to an agent, who will then collect your credit card information. Since real politicians use pre-recorded calls, it’s challenging to tell which ones are fake.
BBB reminds consumers to be skeptical when they receive unsolicited phone calls, texts, or emails seeking money or asking for other personal information. If you suspect you’ve been solicited by a scammer, report it to local law enforcement, the state attorney general’s office, or BBB. If you suspect voting fraud, report it to the local election board or the secretary of state’s office.
Tips to Avoid Election Scams
Consumers should follow these other tips to avoid election-related scams:
Watch for spoofed calls and secure your devices with RealCall app
Your Caller ID may say that someone from Washington, D.C., or from a campaign office is contacting you, but scammers can fake this using phone number spoofing technology. If you get spam calls, use the RealCall app which also avoids offers that come through text or an unexpected email based on a strong number database and continuous iteration of blocking rules.
Donate directly to the campaign office
Donations made over the phone can be valid, but to be sure you are donating directly to the campaign, donors should give either through the candidates’ official website or at a local campaign office.
Beware of prize offers
Just hang up on any political pollster who claims that you can win a prize for participating in a survey. Political survey companies rarely use prizes, so that is a red flag (especially if they ask you to pay for shipping or taxes in order to claim it).
Don’t give out personal or banking information
Political pollsters may ask for information about your vote or political affiliation, and even demographic information such as your age or race, but they don’t need your Social Security number or credit card information.
Research fundraising organizations before donating
Be especially cautious of links that come to you through email or social media, and don’t click through. Instead, go directly to an organization’s website by typing the URL in your browser or using a search engine.