Election season is here – and with the world watching the upcoming midterm elections, scammers have taken note. We’ve researched the top ways scammers are taking advantage of the U.S. political climate.
The Voter Registration Scam
Even if your state has already reached its registration deadline, you could be a target of a new phone scam focusing on the registration process.
The New York State Board of Elections warned residents that scammers are contacting people to register over the phone. Their goal? To coerce people into giving up personal information by pretending to be government officials. Here’s the thing – you can’t register to vote over the phone in any state. Scammers are counting on people to be confused by the election process, eager to register, and willing to give up their Social Security Numbers. Public officials already have a list of voters, so they have no reason to call and request more information.
If you know that your state’s registration deadline has passed, it’s pretty easy to hang up on these “volunteers.” If you’re not sure, check your state’s requirements at https://vote.gov/ before you give up any personal info, or contact your County Elections Office. You can also check to see your voter registration status here. The safest bet? Never provide personal information over a text or call (and just register in person or online).
The Donation Scam
Another scam we’ve found goes after donors looking to sway the vote. Some of the closest local races have people more energized than ever to donate, and scammers are hoping they’ll get a portion of those funds. You get a call from someone posing as a volunteer for a particular candidate or political party asking for last-minute donations; with spoofing technology, it may be difficult to discern if a call is legitimate. Political groups are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry (and scammers don’t play by the rules), so it could be easy to mistake this call for real. Scammers might even know your political affiliation and use that as leverage to convince you to give.
If you suspect someone is impersonating a political party, volunteer, or candidate, get their phone number and check it online before committing to donate. You can always call them back – or play it safe and donate through their website, phone them directly, or mail them a check.
The Survey Scam
“Do you have a minute to talk about the upcoming election?” Plenty of legitimate companies make polling and survey calls during election season. So it should come as no surprise that scammers are taking a page from that playbook to steal. A phony pollster will claim they’re surveying on behalf of one of the parties, an organization, or the media – and they like to choose a hot-button topic to fire you up.
Here’s where the scam goes south – they’ll offer rewards like “free cruise tickets” for your cooperation. The actual survey will be short and sweet because the real bait is the incentives. It’s just a new version of the common free vacation scam wrapped under the guise of being a political call. Once they’ve completed the questions, victims are told their tickets will be sent as soon as they verify credit card details to cover “taxes and fees.” Legitimate pollsters will never offer prizes for your answers, and they’ll never ask for your bank or credit card details.
And watch out – these types of calls could continue after the election as “post-election opinion surveys.” Feel free to give them your opinion – just not your money.
The Vote By Phone Scam
It would be nice if voting were as easy as answering a call, but the fact is, you can’t vote by phone. This scam is less about your personal information or money, and more a dirty tactic to try and stop people from voting altogether. Con artists target people likely to vote for the opposing party, tell them they can “vote by phone” and leave them believing they’ve actually cast a ballot so they don’t go to the polls on voting day.
(Yeah, don’t do that. It’s super illegal)
If someone calls you asking you to vote over the phone, report their number to the FTC – and make sure you get out before or on November 6th to cast a real ballot.
First Orion is doing our part to clean up the scam and spoof calls this election season. If your cell phone provider is part of our team, legitimate political calls will be labeled “Political Call” or “Survey Call.” Informational calls will be labeled as such. And the known scammers? They’ll be slapped with a good ole “Scam Likely” ID.
If your carrier does not offer our services yet, ask for them! We provide call protection to millions of handsets each year. You can also download PrivacyStar for iPhone and Android.