With Election Day less than a week away on November 5, consumers can expect the typical frenzy of last minute campaign calls. While politicians are seeking your support for their candidacies, telemarketing scam artists will also be busy trying to steal money and identities, by pretending to contact you about an election-related issue.
“Constituents and contributors should be cautious if they receive election-related requests, especially by phone,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Metropolitan New York. “While some unsolicited calls might be related to genuine election matters, it is important for consumers to know how to spot common scams that occur in the run-up to any election.”
Below are four common election season schemes, the red flags to look for, and how to avoid them:
1. Campaign Fund Collections: Be wary when answering a call that purports to be from a political party representative, election committee or even the candidate themselves. Scammers can easily spoof caller ID and sound like they are calling from a legitimate political organization. On the call, you may be asked to give a donation. It is a good idea to check on the caller. Get the caller’s contact information, do your own research on candidates and organizations and then call back or contribute through a campaign website that you have identified yourself, if you decide to donate money. You can also call the phone number of the campaign office or mail in a check to their office.
2. Re-register Scam: Scammers also have been known to make calls to voters stating that if they didn’t vote in the last election, that they will have to re-register. Being told that you have been “taken off of the voters list” and need to sign up again is a big red flag. The caller may ask for your personal information, including address, email and in more serious cases, your social security number. Do not give such information over the phone to strangers who may call you. Your voter registration record should be on file with your state Board of Elections; contact them directly if you have any questions about your registration status.
3. Election Survey Scam: Another popular telemarketing scam involves calls stating that a survey is being conducted on behalf of a political party and if you answer all questions, you are eligible to win a prize (often cruise tickets or gift cards). The topic of the survey usually refers to a controversial headline in the news, making it seem credible. The scam occurs when you “win” and are asked to provide your credit card number to pay for the shipping, taxes, or handling of the “prize.” Legitimate polling companies will never offer such prizes for participating in a telephone survey, nor will they ask for a credit card number. Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone unless you initiated the contact and you feel confident with whom you are speaking.
4. Vote by Phone: Never respond to a phone call, email and SMS message asking you to vote by phone. This is a scam. It is not possible to vote by phone. Hang up if you receive a vote-by-phone solicitation. You can only cast your voting ballot by mail, using official absentee ballots applied for well in advance and received by the deadline date, or in-person at an official polling station. Make sure your vote is properly counted! Find out where your correct polling place is located, and if you need a ride to the polls or extra time off to get your voting done, arrange that with helpers and employers well in advance.