Political Scams Expected to Increase as US Mid-Term Election Nears

It’s usually common around this time of year to receive phone calls from political pollsters asking questions about who you plan to vote for, but now scammers are mimicking those legitimate calls.

Consumers are warned by the BBB that the mid-term elections are likely to generate scammers pretending to be pollsters, campaign volunteers, fundraisers, and even candidates.

Here are some common political scams and frauds to watch out for:

Fundraising: You get a call from someone claiming to represent a political candidate, raising money to support the campaign. They may be collecting funds for a specific cause, such as healthcare reform, or on behalf of a group such as veterans. Reports claim that callers are typically pushy and demand immediate action.

Polling: The call is from someone claiming to be conducting a political survey. The pollster wants to ask you questions about the upcoming election. In exchange for a few minutes of your time and opinions, you’re promised a gift card or 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.

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 you’ll be asked for a donation. This is usually followed by a 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 personal information 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 as well. Mail, email, social media, text, or even showing up at your front door are all likely.

Tips to avoid 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 DC or from a campaign office is contacting you, but scammers can fool you by 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. Legitimate polling companies rarely offer prizes and none would ask for a credit card number.
  • 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. Instead, go directly to an organization’s website by typing the URL in your browser or by using a search engine.
  • If you’ve been targeted by one of these scams, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.