Living in a democracy is a wonderful privilege. As Americans, we get a say in the process of our government. It’s a great freedom and it comes with an awesome responsibility. We need to be informed about what candidates do and say, and we have to make sure our voices are heard on Election Day.
Unfortunately, many people see this exercise of democracy as a time to make a quick buck at the expense of others. Both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are warning of an increase in fraudsters using the election as a pretense to get your money or personal information. Be on the lookout for these schemes!
Last-minute campaign contributions
This scam could come by email, telephone or even at your front door. Someone posing as a representative of a candidate you support asks for your help to make one more big push prior to the election. They need you to make a small contribution to help your candidate get out in front. Just make a $5 or $10 contribution, they say, and you can do your part to ensure your ideals are upheld on Election Day.
Of course, none of those funds will make it anywhere near your candidate’s campaign. The best case scenario is that the crook walks away with the money you give. The worst case scenario is they walk away with your credit or debit card information, setting you up for a huge bill down the road!
In most states, voter registration information is public. That means a quick search by address or name will reveal your party affiliation, and it’s not hard from there to guess your candidate preference, especially in state and local races. They may even take advantage of the signs you have posted in your yard. The scammer is using the reflected credibility of a candidate or party you identify with to gain your trust. Don’t let them get away with it!
The easiest way to avoid this scam is to be proactive in your giving. If you choose to donate money to a political campaign, seek out the candidate’s website and look for a donation option there. That way, you can tell anyone who asks that you’ve already given.
Going to vote is an anxiety-producing process for some. There are all kinds of rules and regulations. Unless you’re a constitutional lawyer or a political operative, those rules are way too much to keep track of. Did you remember to register to vote? Did you miss last election and aren’t sure about your registration status? That’s the uncertainty that forms the basis of this scam.
A scammer will contact you, usually over the phone. They’ll claim to represent either a party you’re connected to or some non-partisan “get out the vote” program. You’ll be told that your name has been accidentally removed from the voter rolls, but they’re here to help you correct that mistake. All they need is a little information, like your address and Social Security number. They tell you that, with that info, they can make sure you get heard on Election Day.
That will be the last you hear of the ordeal until you discover you’ve been the victim of identity theft. The person on the phone completed no voter registration form – nor was it even necessary. They just took down your information and used it for criminal purposes.
You can beat this scam using the same public records scammers use to target you. A quick search on your state’s Secretary of State website will reveal whether or not you’re registered to vote. You can also vote early, taking off the pressure entirely.
Everyone’s trying to get a sneak peek at election results. That means a near-constant stream of polls from May through November. Occasionally, to incentivize your participation, survey companies will offer small prizes, like gift cards or even cash, in exchange for your participation. That’s the “in” for this last scam.
A fraudster will call and walk you through a very general survey, focused on headline news. After it’s concluded, they’ll tell you you’ve won a prize as a thank-you for participating. All you need to do is pay a small “processing fee” using a major credit card, or give them your account information so they can directly deposit the supposed prize in your account.
Here, again, there is no prize, and there’s probably not even a poll. Scammers are using the pretext of a poll to gain access to your personal information. They’re taking advantage of an existing social script to get you to let your guard down.
As a rule, never give any personal information in a call you didn’t initiate. Unless you dialed the number, you don’t have any assurance about who’s on the other line. Also, never trust anyone who asks you to pay a fee or other charge before they’ll give you cash or other prizes.
No matter who you vote for this election day, it’s your right as an American to make your voice heard. Step up, make your decision, and be proud to live in a free country. Don’t let opportunistic criminals prevent you from doing your civic duty!
Keep your information secure!