As the general election approaches, you’re probably eager to cast your vote. And just in case you might forget, you can always count on being reminded with never-ending robocalls, text messages, and emails from political campaigns. Don’t assume, however, that all of those communications are legit. Political scammers and scam PACs are looking for your money and maybe stealing your identity.
“The upcoming elections are likely to generate loads of scammers pretending to be pollsters, campaign volunteers, fundraisers, and even candidates,” warns the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
So, how can you know whether those messages and calls are legitimate, especially if the person on the other end is asking for donations or sensitive information?
Learn about four election-year scams ready to prey on your political passion.
Fake fundraising calls
The fundraising call may come from someone purportedly raising money for a political candidate’s campaign. The person may claim to be collecting donations for a specific cause such as health care reform or on behalf of veterans or another group of people. The caller may be extra pushy, demanding some type of immediate action or donation, says the BBB.
The fundraising call may be legitimate, but why take a chance? The BBB recommends donating directly to the candidate’s official website or local campaign office instead. If the donation request is for a charity, search the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to find out if the organization is accredited.
Just because the voice of a political candidate – or even the president himself – is pleading for money on a robocall in your voicemail doesn’t necessarily mean the call is really from his or her political campaign.
“This scam uses real audio clips of politicians’ voices, likely lifted from speeches or media interviews,” warns the BBB. Soon into the call, you’ll be directed to press a button to speak to an agent who will request your credit card information.
The problem with spotting scammers on this technique is that real politicians use pre-recorded messages all the time, so it’s hard to tell which callers are legitimate. If you want to support a campaign financially, hang up on that robocall and donate to the candidate’s official website or campaign office instead.
If someone calls you asking for your opinion on which presidential candidate you’ll vote for, you might be happy to weigh in on the poll. But not all pollsters are interested only in your opinion. The scammy ones want your credit card number, too, for nefarious purposes.
Here’s how the scam works. A pollster promises a gift card or other reward in exchange for answering questions on seemingly legitimate political issues, candidates or the upcoming election. Once you’ve answered, the caller asks for your credit card number to pay for shipping costs of the “prize” you’ve won.
“Legitimate polling companies rarely offer prizes for participating in a survey, and none would ask for a credit card number,” says the BBB. Never give out your credit card number, Social Security number or other sensitive, private information to pollsters.
“Spoofed” campaign calls
If your caller ID shows the number for a political campaign’s local or national headquarters, don’t be too quick to assume you’re talking to or hearing from the actual campaign. That’s because Scammers can easily trick you by displaying a fake number with call spoofing technology.
If you’re suspicious of a call, the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) recommends not answering. If you answer the call and a recording asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, “just hang up,” since that’s a trick scammers often use to identify potential targets, says the FCC.
If you’ve been the victim of theft, report it right away. Contact your local police, your credit card or your bank and tell them what happened. Look out for these signs of identity theft and go to the IdentityTheft.gov website for free resources to help.