Tips for spotting scams this election season
Few groups keep up with current events quite as well as scammers. This election season serves as another reminder of their attentiveness.
As expected, the upcoming news cycle will fill with political updates and projections leading into Election Day on Nov. 3. Posing as pollsters, campaign volunteers and sometimes even candidates, con artists will inject themselves into the conversation — consumers should count on it.
Unsurprisingly, the most likely tactic they employ directly connects to your wallet. Scammers claiming to represent causes that support veterans, healthcare reform and other topical issues have already begun their fraudulent fundraising efforts over the phone. If you receive a call from someone pushing you to make an immediate financial contribution this fall, you're right to question their intentions.
The same goes for any pollsters that reach out for your thoughts on the upcoming election. The questions you may be approached with — either online, in-person or over the phone — will seem legitimate until you're informed you'll be receiving a reward for participating. Claiming that "reward" requires your credit card number to cover any taxes and shipping costs.
Sharing your credit card number and any other personally identifiable information leaves you susceptible to having fraudulent charges made against your financial accounts. Even worse, it increases your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Those consequences can extend well beyond election day.
Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific recommends these guidelines for safely navigating the upcoming political season:
• Donate directly to the campaign office. Making a political donation over phone is certainly an option, but it may not be the safest bet. Use the candidate's official website or local campaign office to help ensure your money is being used the right way.
• Spot any spoofed calls. Your caller ID may not be as accurate as you think. Scammers can easily fake their identities using phone number spoofing technology. That call you're receiving from Washington, D.C.? There's a good chance it may not be as official as it appears.
• Rewards mean risk. If a political pollster claims you will receive a reward or prize for participating in a survey, it's a good idea to hang up the phone. Legitimate polling companies rarely give prizes for participating in their surveys, and they will never ask respondents to pay for any shipping to claim it.
• Protect your personal information. Political pollsters may ask for information regarding your political affiliation along some demographic information such as your age or race. What they should not ask for is your Social Security number or credit card information.
• Do your homework before you donate. Be especially cautious of links that come to you through email or social media. Do not just click through. Instead, go directly to an organization's website by typing the URL in your browser or using a search engine.
More information on how you can avoid political scams this election season is available now at trust-bbb.org.
Ben Spradling is marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.
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