Scammers may be the ultimate opportunists, taking advantage of current events in order to craft scams and trick their victims. That’s likely why the Better Business Bureau, the Identity Theft Resource Center, and the National Association of State Election Directors have warned the public to be aware of voter- and election-related scams, especially in the weeks and months leading up to an election. Watch out for these five voter-and election-related scams.
- Fake Voter Surveys or Polls
Election season often equates to more surveys and polls because it’s one way that candidates learn about their constituents. Unfortunately, political polls can also be used as a ruse by scammers to collect personally identifiable information (PII). Fraudulent pollsters may even offer fake compensation or prizes for participation and then ask their victims for a credit card number to process bogus shipping charges or taxes.
How to Better Protect Yourself: If you are contacted to take a legitimate political survey or poll and choose to participate, you may be asked about how you plan to vote, your political affiliation, or even some demographic information, like age or race, but don’t overshare your name, address, email address, date of birth, Social Security number, or driver’s license number. Keep in mind that real political polls rarely offer prizes for participation, and none would ask for a credit card number.
- Voter Registration Scams
In the US, you can typically vote in person at a government-sanctioned location or via mail-in ballot through the US Postal Service. However, in one election-related scam, fraudsters contact victims claiming that the victim can vote through other means, such as by phone, email, or text.
How to Better Protect Yourself: It’s important to remember that the trusted source for any election-related information is your state or local election official. To learn more about your state’s specific requirements and deadlines for registering to vote and voting, visit canivote.org.
- Political Donation Scams
Con artists may pose as fundraising volunteers in an attempt to convince victims to donate money, either in support of a specific cause or on behalf of a group of people. Even if the caller is not a true scammer, some charitable organizations may be poorly managed and not actually send an appropriate percentage of donated funds to the cause you wish to support.
How to Better Protect Yourself: Always research fundraising organizations before donating. For campaign donations, it may be best to donate directly to the campaign via the candidates’ official website or the local campaign office. Be cautious of fundraising links sent by email or social media. Instead of clicking on unfamiliar links, go directly to an organization’s website by typing the URL into your browser or using a search engine. Learn seven tips to avoid charity scams.
- Impersonation Scams
Scammers may use real recorded audio of a candidate’s voice to solicit campaign contributions. The “candidate” will call to request a donation and then ask victims to push a button to be directed to a representative to complete the transaction. It can be difficult to differentiate real solicitations from fake ones, as real candidates and politicians often use pre-recorded calls in their campaigns as well.
How to Better Protect Yourself: For campaign donations, it may be best to donate directly to the campaign via the candidates’ official website or their local campaign office. Don’t overshare your PII or credit card number, as it may expose you to the risk of fraudulent charges or even future identity theft. Beware of spoofed calls, as scammers often make their calls look like they originated from a trusted source.
- Questionable Petitions
Petitions can be an excellent way for citizens to voice their concerns about important issues, but they may also lead to identity theft, especially if the person handling the petition does not properly safeguard the participants’ information. A political petition may require a name, address, or phone number, but it shouldn’t require any additional sensitive information.
How to Better Protect Yourself: If you feel too much information is required from a petition, choose not to participate.
Additional Resources Are Available from Government Agencies
If you believe you have been the victim of an election-related scam, contact your state and local election officials. These additional resources are also available:
- The National Association of State Election Directors provides a guide on Ensuring and Securing Your Vote.
- The USA.gov website provides information on registering to vote or checking or changing registration.
- The US Department of Justice publishes information on how it ensures all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots.