With the 2020 presidential election coming up in November, it’s important to be politically aware in order to be an informed voter. Although being politically conscious and knowledgeable about the candidates political stances is a vital part of the election season, in the current era of increased online scams, being cyber-aware of potential election scams is now another crucial part of the election season.
Before the election even takes place, cybercriminals will target voters with a wide range of scams. Some of these malicious scams include robocalls, voice-cloning and fake voter surveys or political polls.
When a scammer calls you posing as a political volunteer asking for donations to fund a political campaign, this is known as a robocall. Scammers will call and attempt to start a conversation that plays on the voters political stances in order to persuade voters to give out financial information. These robocallers typically ask for cash or credit card information, claiming that the donation will support a political campaign or specific cause. Robocalls do not solely take place over the phone, scammers will also text or email voters attempting to obtain financial information.
Areas that are often heavily targeted by robocalls are the South, Washington D.C., Michigan and Texas because of their politically passionate populations. If you have been affected by a robocall scam it is important to file a report and create a personalized plan for recovery by visiting IdentityTheft.gov from the Federal Trade Commission.
Voice-cloning is when a scammer mimics political candidates’ voices asking for financial contributions. By using the audio of political candidates’ voices from speeches or interviews, scammers impersonate political officials to ask for donations or special contributions. Oftentimes the scammer will use voice-cloning to persuade voters and then “redirect the call” to someone who will collect your credit card information. This is where the scam takes place.
What makes voice-cloning calls so hard to detect is that real political candidates will sometimes use pre-recorded phone calls – making it very difficult to recognize what is a legitimate call and what is not. If you think you have encountered a voice-cloning scam, you should immediately stop communication with the individual.
Fake Voter Surveys/Political Polls
Fake voter surveys or political polls ask for personal information or offer prizes in order to steal financial information.
Scammers use surveying tactics in order to start a conversation with the voters to attempt to gain their trust, therefore enabling them to ask for sensitive information without raising suspicion. Sometimes as an incentive for being polled, the scammer will offer you gift cards or even extravagant prizes such as cruise trips. But these prizes are not real and are only offered as ways to ask for credit card information claiming to cover the cost for shipping or taxes of the “prize”. Political survey scammers attempt to keep voters on the phone long enough to gain trust and will say almost anything to try and persuade voters into answering a few questions.
This election season, whether you are affected by a robocall, political polls, fake voter surveys, or any other scam – CSN is here to help. With the COVID-19 crisis altering life in drastic ways, we recognize that election season might be different than elections in the past. But one thing is for sure, that scammers will use this time of internet dependency to target more voters this election season.
If you are affected by an election scam please visit FightCybercrime.org to report and recover.
This blog was written by Aric Bird, one of CSN’s past marketing interns, and an Eastern Michigan University student pursuing a master’s in Communications.