With local and statewide elections approaching and the presidential primaries looming, you might see more requests to sign petitions and fill out surveys. You might also see fraudsters posing as campaign workers this election season. If you’re planning to contribute to a political candidate, the safest bet is to donate directly via the campaign website or in person at the local office. Be on guard for election-themed phishing campaigns, too.
Participating in the democratic process shouldn’t compromise your identity. But scammers know that political campaigns are often asking for money.
Reaching out for donations on behalf of candidates or using election-themed phishing scams to steal personal information become much more frequent around elections.
During election season, you may also notice an uptick in requests to sign petitions, fill out polls and surveys, and donate to causes and campaigns. Unfortunately, some of these activities could leave your personal details exposed.
This November and beyond, try these tips for maintaining your civic duty without getting snagged in a scam.
Watch out for fundraising scams
Some scammers see elections as an opportunity to take advantage of people who may want to offer financial support to candidates or causes.
These fraudsters may call or email you, pretending to raise funds on behalf of a specific group or candidate.
Protect yourself against fundraising scams:
Taking your time. Be wary of any caller or message using pressure tactics to raise funds.
Before donating, always research fundraising organizations you may be considering supporting.
Consider donating directly on the organization's or candidate's website or in-person at their local campaign office.
Being on the lookout for spoofed calls. Your Caller ID may say the call is from a campaign or organization's office, but this can be faked.
How to avoid fundraising scams
If you want to help a political candidate or cause, do your research to determine that you are donating to a legitimate organization.
If you’re giving to a third-party non-profit, there are several organizations that can help with this, like BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and Candid.
If you’re donating directly to a candidate online, be aware that scammers can make copycat sites that look similar to the real thing. To be safe, make sure the website is legit, and see if the URL starts with “HTTPS.”
Be careful with your personally identifiable information (PII)
Have you ever signed a local candidate’s nominating petition at the farmer’s market? What about participating in a voter registration drive in the parking lot of a music festival? Or answering a quick email survey from a favorite candidate?
These may seem like everyday actions, but our identity specialists recommend thinking twice before sharing personal information.
Because identity thieves are known to use election scams or voter registration scams to steal personal details.
That petition may ask for personally identifiable information (PII), such as your name and address — and the person with the clipboard may not be who they say they are.
Plus, leaving voter registration form in the care of a canvasser could lead to your sensitive information not being stored securely.
There are ways to safely register to vote, lend your support, and voice your opinion. To start, follow these best practices:
When registering to vote:
If you register to vote in a public place, opt to hand-deliver or mail in the required form rather than leaving it behind.
Remember that it’s only possible to vote at the ballot box or via an official absentee ballot. Ignore solicitations that claim you can register to vote or cast your ballot by phone, text, or email in exchange for sharing your personal information.
When participating in a poll or political survey:
If you decide to fill out a voter petition or survey, be choosy about what you share. Don’t be afraid to ask if certain fields are required, and never give out your Social Security number or driver’s license number.
If a campaign worker or pollster offers you a gift card for filling out a political survey, be wary. Political campaigns don’t offer prizes or rewards.
Never give out your financial information, such as credit card numbers or bank account details, when participating in a poll or survey. Pollsters may ask for demographic or political affiliation information, but they should never need more than that.
When interacting with a candidate or cause over email or social media:
Before clicking a link in an election-themed email or social post, give it a once-over for phishing hallmarks such as blurry images and typos. Hover your mouse over any links before clicking through.
Follow your gut. If an email or petition seems to be probing for too much information, opt not to share.
We have your back during election season — and beyond
Even with the utmost care, you may find yourself sharing more personal information than usual during election season.
If you’re an Allstate Identity Protection member and you’ve enabled key features such as dark web and social media monitoring, our rapid alerts will let you know right away if we spot your PII in the wrong place. If your identity is compromised, we can walk you through the issue you’re experiencing and advise on next steps.
If you’re not a member and you think you’ve fallen for an election-themed scam, what should you do next? Change your password for key accounts like your bank account and credit cards.
Be on the lookout for signs of identity theft, such as suddenly being locked out of your accounts.
If you may have lost money in a fundraising scam:
Notify the financial institution you used to send the funds and ask if the charge can be reversed.
Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.