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Metropolitan New York, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Region
BBB Warns of Voter Registration Fraud that Could Lead to Identity Theft
September 23, 2008

The presidential election is nearly upon us and interest in the race peaking. While many Americans are showing their civic pride and engaging in the political process, scammers and ID thieves see an opportunity to ply their trade. The Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York is warning Americans to be extremely cautious with their personal information this election season to avoid phony voter registration drives that are designed to steal their identities.

The New York Times puts the potential number of new voters into the millions and according to the Pew Research Center, if the current level of voter engagement continues up to the election, the nation could experience historically high voter turnout this November. Unfortunately, a projected increase in voter turnout also means there will be a lot of people registering who are unfamiliar with the process, and who may be easy prey for ID thieves.

“While pundits are concerned about voter fraud and its potential to skew election results, ID thieves are taking voter fraud in a different direction by trying to get their hands on new voters’ personal information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York. “Voter registration laws vary by state and changes take place regularly, which creates the confusing environment that ID thieves thrive in.”

ID theft under the guise of voter registration can be perpetrated through e-mail, on the phone, and even in person. Younger voters and first-time registrants need to be especially wary. According to the 2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy and Research, those in the 18-24 and 25-34 year-old age demographics have the highest incident rates for ID theft in America. All voters, though, need to be aware of the following ways ID thieves might try to get at their personal information this election season.

E-mail

Phishing e-mails are spam that attempt to coerce sensitive information from the recipient. When it comes to voter registration scams, recipients may get phishing e-mails that appear to be from a government agency and claim that the recipient must click on a link in the message to register to vote or resolve a registration issue. These links will actually redirect recipients to Web sites that install viruses or malware on their computers or ask for personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers.

On the Phone

Similar to phishing e-mails, a voter might receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for a government agency or one of the presidential campaign offices. The caller may claim that there is a problem with the voter’s registration and they need to confirm their identity by providing personal information such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. Voters need to know that state government officials do not contact voters by phone if there is an issue with their registration, nor do they need bank account or credit card numbers to confirm a voter’s identity.

In-Person

Local voter registration drives often rely on individuals who set up in common public areas or go door-to-door to register voters. Would-be voters should always ask individuals for proof of which organization the volunteer is with before providing any information and should research the organization as well. While some states require Social Security numbers to vote, states never require bank account or credit card information to confirm the voter’s identity.

Consumers who believe they have become a victim of ID theft or voter registration fraud should contact their BBB at 212-533-6200 or inquiry@newyork.bbb.org, as well as file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP or http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

Voter registration processes vary by state and voters can go to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Web site at www.eac.gov/voter for information on state voter registration guidelines and other advice on how to navigate Election Day.

Consumers looking for additional advice on identity theft prevention can go to www.bbb.org.