Political Calls: A Shell-Game or Legit?

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With just over 50 days left before the Presidential Election, robocalls will increase dramatically as pollsters and candidates seek to gain your vote and financial support. While not all political calls are scams, but a legitimate way to fundraise and promote a candidate’s platform, it’s often hard to distinguish the real from the fake. Here’s how these calls typically work:

You receive a call that may start with a recording of a real politician discussing a hot-button topic in your area that will end by asking you if you will join the fight to change legislation, create a new law, provide more affordable healthcare – you get the picture. If you say yes or press the designated button on your phone, you will be transferred to a live representative who may try to solicit a donation or gather personal information from you “to add you to their mailing list”.

How do you know if you are dealing with a real campaign organization? Legitimate organizations will never:

  • Offer prizes for participating in a telephone survey.
  • Ask you for your Social Security Number or credit card number to “verify your identity or confirm you voter status?”.
  • Use aggressive sales-tactics to coerce you into donating to the campaign.

If you run into any of these red flags, hang up. It’s most likely a scam. To avoid becoming a victim, consider these best practices:

•             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. Don’t count on a callback number given to you by the caller. It’s no guarantee you will be connected with a legitimate campaign fundraising committee.

•             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 is a red flag (especially if they ask you to pay for shipping or taxes to claim it).

•             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, and don’t click through. Instead, go directly to an organization’s website by typing the URL in your browser or using a search engine.

Source: BBB North Alabama & BBB.org

To report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.

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