With election season here scammers are taking advantage of the time to trick you out of your money and personal information.
Jeremy Johnson, the marketplace manager from the Better Business Bureau in Idaho Falls, lists three specific scams Idahoans should be aware of - fundraising scams, polling scams and impersonation scams.
The BBB also advises customers that whenever they suspect they might be talking to a scammer to just hang up and report the phone number to the BBB’s scam tracking website.
Three Different Scams
For a fundraising scam a scammer could call, claiming to represent a political candidate and ask for money to support the campaign.
The AARP reports that politically minded citizens are more likely to engage in conversations with fake political volunteers. Many citizens in politically charged areas are targeted with this scam in places like Texas or Washington, D.C.
Polling scams happen when someone calls claiming they want to conduct a political survey. They then say if you do the survey you will win a prize.
An actual pollster would never give a prize or be asking you for personal information like your bank account number.
“They are saying, ‘Oh we would like to give you a prize or gift card,’ or something like that and then they are asking for personal information to mail that to you or transfer that to your account,” Johnson said. “And that is how they are getting personal or financial information.”
Johnson said it is not just account information you should be wary of handing out, but also information like your home address.
Lastly, you might find yourself getting a call from someone claiming to be a candidate or even the president. This person may sound like the person they claim to be.
Johnson said this is because they now use audio software to use real audio clips. This may sound very realistic but, in any case, it is never a good idea to share your personally identifiable information or your credit card number over the phone.
How to Avoid Scams
The BBB offers five suggestions for avoiding scams.
1. Donate directly to the campaign office.
Just to be sure your money is going to the right place go to the campaign’s direct official website or their local campaign office.
2. Watch for spoofed calls.
It might be that it looks like someone from Washington, D.C. or even a local office is calling but technology is now available that allows scammers to use these fake numbers. Don’t answer the phone if you suspect it is fake.
3. Beware of prize offers.
No pollster or campaigner is going to offer you free money or prizes.
4. Don’t give out personal or banking information.
If a pollster is asking for your Social Security number or credit card information, just hang up.
5. Research funding raising organizations before donating.
Especially if you are getting links through social media be especially careful to research the organization before clicking the link. Try typing the URL into the browser or use a search engine to find it.
Johnson says the best thing to avoid calls is to just not answer calls you don’t recognize, or if you suspect they are a scammer to just hang up. Even talking to a scammer can ensure you receive more scams.
“The more you engage them the more you are apt to get more of these kinds of calls,” Johnson said.
If you are looking to find what kind of scams are happening in Idaho go to bbb.org/scamtracker. The BBB keeps track of what scams are happening in the area and what to look out for.
If You Have Been a Victim of a Scam
If you think you might have been a victim of a scam the same website can be used to report the scam.
Unfortunately, if you have been a victim of a scam there is not much that you can do to get the information back. The best option is to then go through the steps to protect your finances.
Put fraud alerts on your account and credit reports. Contact your bank and alert them to the situation.
“As far as personal information, addresses phone numbers things like that,” Johnson said. “Once that has been given out it is really hard to erase that.”
Be safe with your information this election season while using your right to vote.