Election Scams Present in Several Ways
Fake pollsters may call claiming to be conducting a political survey when it’s actually a scam. The pollster will often say he or she wants to ask you questions about the election. In exchange for a few minutes of your time and your opinions, they will offer you a gift card or other reward.
After asking several legitimate-sounding survey questions, the caller typically then asks you to provide your credit card number to pay for the shipping and taxes 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.
Other issues have to do with impersonation. You get a call that sounds like one of the candidates, or perhaps even the president, asking you to make a special contribution. This scam uses real audio clips of politicians’ voices, likely lifted from speeches or media interviews. Digital technology has made these recordings sound very realistic.
At some point, the politician 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.
Voter location changes can also be scams. In Cuyahoga County Ohio, officials warned residents about robocalls indicating a fake voting location change. For any voter location changes, go to The State of Hawai‘i Office of Elections website. Do not rely on social media for information.
Fundraising scams are also a potential problem. You get a call from someone claiming to represent a political candidate, raising money to support the campaign, a specific cause, or a group of people. Targets report that callers are typically pushy and demand immediate action. Even if the caller is not a scammer, some groups may be poorly managed and not spend the money the way they describe on the phone. You can check Give.org to see if the charity is accredited.
In all of these cases, sharing your personally identifiable information (PII) and/or credit card number can open you up to the risk of fraudulent charges and even future identity theft. Although these examples are primarily telephone scams, fraudsters can use other methods to reach you, including mail, email, social media, text, and even showing up at your front door.
- Watch for spoofed calls: Your Caller ID may say that someone from Washington DC or from a campaign office is contacting you, but scammers can fake this using phone number spoofing technology.
- Beware of prize offers: Just hang up on any political pollster who claims that you can win a prize for participating in a survey. Political survey companies rarely use prizes, so that is a red flag (especially if they ask you to pay for shipping or taxes in order to claim it).
- Don’t give out personal or banking information: Political pollsters may ask for information about your vote or political affiliation, and even demographic information such as your age or race, but they don’t need your Social Security number or credit card information.
- Research fundraising organizations before donating: Be especially cautious of links that come to you through email or social media, and don’t click through. Instead, go directly to an organization’s website by typing the URL in your browser or using a search engine.
- Donate directly to the campaign office: Donations made over the phone can be valid, but to be sure you are donating directly to the campaign, donors should give either through the candidate’s official website or at a local campaign office.