Election day will be here soon, and consumers need to be aware of several scams that play off the nonstop election hype on social media, television and elsewhere.
Some scammers simply use the election as a cover for common scams, while others may think that consumers who feel strongly may be willing to part with sensitive personal information, which can open you up to the risk of fraudulent charges and even future identity theft. Election-related scams include:
• Campaign fund-raising scam: Phone calls purporting to be from an election committee or political representative may seem legitimate if they know your political affiliation and their caller ID 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 phone scam: The only legal method of voting in a presidential 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.
• Impersonation: 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 you receive unsolicited phone calls 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.
For more BBB tips or to research a company, go to BBB.org or call 417-380-5074. BBB Scam Tracker is also a good way to research scams.