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Election Day scams may use innocent events like polls or voter registration to gather your personally identifiable information or payment information. Scammers perpetrating these scams aim to commit identity theft or financial fraud.
As an election approaches, make sure that you're on the lookout for these Election Day and political scams.
1. Fake Pollsters Collecting Sensitive Information
The setup: Someone taking a poll or collecting signatures for a petition approaches you and asks you some questions. These include asking for information like your Social Security number and home address. They may offer a prize for completing this poll.
The scam: Identity thieves use the collected personally identifiable information to steal your identity. If a prize is offered, the scammer may request your credit card information to cover shipping and then use it to make purchases you didn't authorize.
How to Avoid It
Never give out your private information such as your Social Security number or driver's license number. Some legitimate polls and petitions may ask for information like if you belong to a political party or what field you work in. But only share information you are comfortable sharing and which won't put you at risk of identity theft.
Prizes are generally not used as incentives for polls or petitions and you should not give out your credit card information to an unknown entity.
Be aware that these attempts at collecting your private information can happen over the phone, via email (also known as phishing) or even in text messages. Don't click on links in unsolicited messages from unknown senders.
2. Voter Registration and Voting Scams
The setup: Someone contacts you by phone, email or text message saying you're not registered to vote. They offer a way for you to register over the phone or through a link they send. They give you directions for how to vote online or by text message.
The scam: Scammers can easily collect a large amount of your personal information through these forms. Any links they send may also be phishing forms, which are malicious links used to collect data from you or allow others to access your devices.
How to Avoid It
Ignore anyone who contacts you about registering to vote or voting in a way that doesn't make sense, such as via text message or over the phone. Instead, go to an official registration location to sign up to vote and cast your ballot. You may also be able to register online or by mail and vote by official mail-in ballot. Don't click on links that are sent to you, especially if they are unsolicited.
3. Robocall Impersonations and Spoofing
The setup: You receive a robocall from a politician or a call from a number that appears to be an official campaign number. It directs you to press a number and make a donation.
The scam: Political robocalls are legal. However, scammers sometimes employ impersonation scams that use manipulated recordings of familiar politicians to gain your trust. Similarly, some scammers may call under a spoofed number that makes it look like they are calling from a campaign headquarters.
How to Avoid It
Avoid these scams by never trusting a robocall that directs you to donate or the information on your caller ID. If you are contacted by a political figure or organization you would like to donate to, seek out their official website or address to donate.
4. Campaign Donation Scams
The setup: An organization claiming to be associated with a campaign or political movement you support sends you a link to collect a donation.
The scam: The link may be a phishing link to collect your financial information or the organization itself may be a scam. Some scammers set up sophisticated, fake political action committees (PACs). PACs are legal entities designed to collect political donations. But in these cases, the PACs are designed only to collect funds from unsuspecting victims.
How to Avoid It
Don't click on links from unsolicited emails. Instead, go directly to an organization's official website to make donations. And be sure to get familiar with an organization before donating.
Always check the sender line to see if the email account that sent the email was spoofed. Similarly, if you do open a link, check the website address to see if the URL is what you expected it to be.
What to Do If You Are an Election Day Scam Victim
Scammers have perfected their routines to get well-meaning people to turn over personal information or payment details. They often play on emotions around political movements to get this information.
If you have been a victim of an Election Day or political scam, there are some important steps to take to protect yourself. Start by:
- Visiting IdentityTheft.gov. There you can get guidelines and checklists for dealing with a potential identity thief. You can also make a report to the Federal Trade Commission there.
- Change any potentially compromised passwords.
- Notify your credit card company or bank to get back any stolen funds ASAP. Request a replacement card if needed.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and consider freezing your credit.
- Report the identity theft to local law enforcement.
- Check your credit report.
- Close any accounts listed on your credit report that have been opened fraudulently using your identity.
- File disputes with the credit bureaus to remove these accounts and any other items on your credit report that you feel may be related to the fraud.
- Review your Social Security work history to make sure your Social Security number is not being misused.
Proactive steps after an identity theft risk can help prevent serious, long-term consequences of identity theft and financial losses.
Elect to Protect Yourself This Political Season
Keep an eye out for red flags to spot scams. And if you are victimized by a scammer, follow guidelines from IdentityTheft.gov to protect your identity.
If you suspect that you could be the victim of identity theft, using the tools in Experian's Identity Theft Protection membership could help you feel protected again. This protection includes features such as:
- Dark web surveillance
- Three-bureau credit monitoring
- Social Security number monitoring
- Financial accounts activity monitoring
- Court record alerts
- Change of address alerts
- Payday and non-credit loans alerts
As scammers have become more sophisticated with more technology on their side, it's important to arm yourself with similarly savvy protections.