voting scamsNo matter whether you’re a news junkie or prefer to live in ignorant bliss when it comes to the news, there’s not a single person in the U.S. who isn’t aware that this is an election year. The natural uptick in phone calls and emails and door-to-door campaigning that occurs during election season is the perfect opportunity for scammers to slither their way in and try to take advantage of people who are already expecting to be contacted and asked for votes, donations and more. It’s important to be on alert as the Nov. 8 elections draw near and watch out for potential voting scams. To help you know what to watch for, we’ve outlined some of the more common tricks scammers may try.

Voter registration

It’s important to register to vote, and in the past couple of months there’s been a big push to get as many people registered as possible before the deadline. Since each state’s voter registration deadlines are a bit different, this means that people in one state might be feeling the heat at different times than people in another state. If you are approached while you’re out getting groceries or someone calls to try and get you to register to vote, be wary. Because important personal information is collected when you register (including your driver’s license, last four digits of your social security number, your address and your birth date), it’s imperative for you to trust that any forms you fill out will be turned in to the board of elections rather than kept in order to exploit your data. In fact, the smartest thing you can do is handle your own voter registration yourself. According to USA.gov, you can register to vote online in 31 states plus the District of Columbia, and it can be done by mail or in person in every state. If you do elect to register to vote online, be sure you are using the correct website and a secure browser. Similarly, if you choose to register through the mail, pay the extra money for certified mail to confirm the recipient receives your form.

Not sure whether you’re registered with the correct information? The Can I Vote website, operated by the National Association of Secretaries of State, offers a secure way to determine your voter registration status as well as find out your polling location when it’s time to go vote.

Donation scams

Elections mean all sorts of people and organizations are vying to make sure their candidates and issues are supported and, hopefully, victorious. Campaigns require money, which means you’re going to see a lot of requests for donations to one cause or another. Fake donation requests are a scammer’s bread and butter, and that means you need to be extra careful when someone solicits you for money — whether it’s over the phone, by email or even in person. It’s never a good idea to give someone your bank or payment card details over the phone, no matter who they claim to be. Likewise, you should be careful about clicking on links in emails you receive related to election issues, as phishing scams continue to plague people’s inboxes, and scammers are counting on you not thinking before you click.

The best way to avoid these voting scams is to go straight to the source if you wish to make a contribution to a campaign. You can do this either by using the candidate or party’s website, or mailing a check to the official address listed on the site or in the phone book. If someone calls you and gives an impassioned speech that moves you to donate, get their information and double check it with a Google search. Remember: a legitimate organization seeking donations won’t mind if you want to take some time to do your research or think about it. Anyone who pressures you to make a decision or give them a payment immediately should be viewed with suspicion.

Voter suppression scams

Some election scams aren’t about stealing your information or money, but stealing your vote. Unfortunately, there are people who wish to get ahead by preventing voters who might be voting for the opposite issue or candidate they support from actually casting their ballot. Always make sure you double-check your polling location by visiting your state’s board of elections website. Mailing a ballot? Be sure to follow the instructions to the letter to ensure your absentee ballot is received and counted. Remember, you cannot vote over the phone or by email. If someone calls or emails you to try and convince you that you can cast your ballot by either of these methods, ignore them. These voting scams are some of the more insidious, as they try to take away your basic rights as a U.S. citizen and influence the outcome of an election.

Scammers are a part of every aspect of life, including elections. Keeping these voting scams in mind as you head to the polls this November is a good way to ensure that you aren’t taken advantage of and know your vote has been counted. Learn more about keeping your information and money safe from scammers by following our scams blog.