The approach of an election always seems to turn up the emotional heat across the country, but the 2022 US midterms are no exception. The voices arguing for and against the hot topics are strong and persistent. And when emotions run high, bad actors look for ways to use people’s passion to trick them.
Scammers prey on emotions. The more people care, the more vulnerable they can be. People participate in polls and surveys because they want to be heard, and scammers can use that desire to build trust. People donate because they want their candidate to win and improve their country or community, and scammers are more than happy to tap into a competitive spirit or a big heart.
Elections are polarizing: there are winners and losers, fans and enemies. It’s easy to get carried away in the moment and take risks you might otherwise avoid. At BBB, we can’t tell you how to vote, but we can tell you how to spot common cybersecurity threats, so you don’t become a victim of scams.
Check your e-mail
It may seem like once a candidate or political party gets your email address, you hear from them every time you check your inbox. They need your help; they want to know your point of view through a survey or poll. They encourage you to support their efforts and impact the future by donating, participating, or sharing information.
Candidates are persistent because people want to be involved, in the know, and a part of the process, so campaign email helps them move toward their goals. Scammers mimic campaign emails not to get your vote, but to compromise your online security.
You may receive a poll, survey or donation request that appeals to your passion, beliefs and desire to act; that is really an attempt to steal your personal information. What looks like a legitimate donation request could actually be an attempt to gain access to your bank account.
Before donating or giving personal information, research the organization you approached and be wary of people trying to rush you into making a decision.
Be especially careful with emails with links. Phishing emails can include a link that takes users to a spoofed version of a candidate’s website or installs malware on their device. Use BBB Tips for Spotting an Email Scam to make sure it’s real.
If you want to receive more information or visit a site, it is best to type the official website address in your browser. You can also mouse over hyperlinks and compare the web address that appears with the legitimate web address.
When scammers give you a ring
Real campaign supporters call people to take surveys or ask for donations. Scammers often do the same thing.
Criminals pretending to be affiliated with your party or candidate may try to scam you over the phone by asking you to:
It is common for actual candidates to use pre-recorded messages to communicate with the public. Scammers sometimes use voice cloning to sound like an authentic message from a candidate and persuade people to donate or share information. After listening to the message, people are redirected or transferred to someone who is ready to take their information and use it for nefarious activities.
Deception by Smishing
Smishing is similar to email scam, only the messages are sent via text. Citizens may receive a message that appears to come from a trusted source, inviting them to participate in a survey or make a donation. Cheaters may try to get your passwords, account numbers, social security number, or other information. Read more about smishing Y how to identify a fake text message.
Another type of scam occurs when scammers send a text message about a fake problem. For example, a person may receive a text message that appears to come from their bank, asking if they actually donated to a candidate, organization, or party with a prompt to answer “yes” or “no.” If the person says no, the scammer calls them and asks for their account username, numbers or password to investigate or dispute the transaction. The person feels fear and an urgent need to act, so they may not think twice before handing over sensitive information. More About Fake Bank Text Messages.
There is also the scam of sending a text message with your vote. Scammers send out text messages urging people to text instead of voting in person or by mail. When voters believe them, they don’t show up to vote and lose their chance to participate in the election.
Cyber Security Tips for the Midterm Elections
- See awards as a red flag. Legitimate surveyors do not usually offer a prize for completing a survey.
- Know what pollsters don’t need. They may ask for demographic information or which party you most align with, but they don’t need personal information like dates of birth, social security numbers, or financial information. No states offer voter registration by phone.
- Don’t answer unknown numbers. Scammers can’t trick you if they can’t get in touch with you.
- Listen to your gut. If something seems wrong, protect yourself. If in doubt, check with your local election office.
- Do not provide information in response to an unsolicited message. The entities that need your account and personal data already have them.
- Report suspicious activities to BBB Scam Tracker.
Source: BBB.org and BBB Central East Texas
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