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Political scams expected to increase as U.S. midterm election nears

🕐 2 min read

Election day is only a few days away and it’s common around this time of year to receive phone calls from political pollsters asking questions about how you plan to vote, and scammers mimic those legitimate calls.

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about these common political scams and frauds to watch out for this election season

Fundraising: You get a call from someone claiming to represent a political candidate, raising money to support the campaign. 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 actually spend the money the way they describe on the phone.

Polling: The call is from someone claiming to be conducting a political survey. 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 a “prize” you’ve won.

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. 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.

In all of these cases, sharing your personally identifiable information (PII) and/or financial accounts 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; mail, email, social media, text or even showing up at your front door.

Here is some BBB advice to avoiding political scams:

• 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 candidates’ official website or at a local campaign office.

• Watch for spoofed calls: Your Caller ID may say that someone from Washington D.C. 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.

• 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.

To research companies, go to BBB.org. If you’ve been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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