BBB Serving Central VA Warning: Political Scams Will Increase

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BBB serving Central Virginia is warning consumers that the upcoming midterm elections are likely to generate loads of scammers pretending to be pollsters, campaign volunteers, fundraisers, and even candidates.

Political Scams Likely to Increase

“Scams during election seasons come at people like a blizzard. Take the time to do your research and don’t let your election emotions lead you to do dumb things just to try and “have your say” to what often is just a scammer trying to rip you off,” said Barry N. Moore, BBB-CV President.

BBB serving Central Virginia is warning consumers that the upcoming midterm elections are likely to generate loads of 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 of people, such as veterans. BE SURE who you are donating to. Do your research first.

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 your opinions, you’ll get a gift card or other 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. Legitimate polling companies rarely offer prizes for a survey. None would ask for a credit card number.

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. Digital technology has made these recordings sound very realistic. 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. Again, know who you’re giving money to. Tell them you’ll call back later. Do your research.

Sharing your personally identifiable information (PII) and/or credit card number can open you up to the risk of fraudulent charges and even identity theft. These examples are primarily telephone scams, but fraudsters can use other methods to reach you such via mail, email, social media, text, or even knocking on your door.

Here are some BBB 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 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’s 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.
  • Research fundraising organizations before donating: Be especially cautious of links that come to you through email or social media; don’t click through. Instead, go directly to an organization’s website by typing the URL in your browser or using a search engine.

“Scams during election seasons come at people like a blizzard. Take the time to do your research and don’t let your election emotions lead you to do dumb things just to try and “have your say” to what often is just a scammer trying to rip you off,” said Barry N. Moore, BBB-CV President. “The scammer could care less what you think. They just want your money or a way into your bank accounts,” Moore added.

For more BBB information please contact the name and number provided with this press release.

About BBB serving Central Virginia: Provides service to Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, consumer and business education, and charity review.

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