ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “It is that time of year,” Julie Wheeler, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Virginia, said.
It’s a highly anticipated election year and that means scammers are out there posing as election officials, fundraisers, and pollsters. And voting scams begin long before you even head to the polls.
“A lot of solicitations out there, you’re getting a lot of calls to donate,” Wheeler said. “Maybe you’re getting calls making promises to you if you’ll answer questions.”
Wheeler explained one of the biggest red flags is the promise of a prize if you take their survey.
“Typically what happens is, [they say] ‘We’re going to send you $1,000 for doing our survey, but you need to now give us your credit card number so we can charge you whatever, $10 or $20 for delivery.’”
Don’t be fooled. Winning is free. “If you truly win, if it’s truly a prize, you pay nothing. You do not pay for shipping or anything,” Wheeler said.
The BBB has also reported an increase use of Robocalls by scammers to illicit money from you. Sometimes the voice recording sounds just like a specific candidate telling you the rival candidate is raising more money and they need funds now.
It’s important that everyone screens their calls and hangs up if the recording is not one you signed up for. You can even take protecting yourself a step further by registering on the Do Not Call Registry.
Wheeler said because of the pandemic and because more people are staying at home, the BBB has found more people are also falling for scams that would let them register and even vote over the phone.
Regardless of what kind of election year it is, scammers use elections as a front to steal people’s identities and their money.
“Don’t rely on stuff you’re receiving from third parties that you really have no idea where it’s originating or what their ultimate goal is,” Wheeler explained.
One of the most common types of scams is campaign fraud.
“You need to make sure if you want to give, you’re actually giving to a specific campaign and not to a group or maybe somebody who isn’t legitimate at all,” she said.
Wheeler says sometimes callers claim to represent a specific candidate and say they need money to help win the election. “As always it’s always better if you go back to the source if you have an interest in giving and don’t do it over the phone, over email or text messaging.”
Even though COVID-19 has changed a lot of ways we do things, it’s not changed the way we vote. And voting by phone is still not a legitimate voting option.
“Has anything been normal this year?” Wheeler laughed. “There’s going to be more and more of it where people are going to get calls that say you can vote by phone.”
So be on your guard. There’s no way for callers to verify you’re who you say you are and no way for you to verify who they are. Plus, voting by phone would take away your privacy.
“You know one of the big things about voting is you have total privacy on how you cast your ballot and in that case you would have none,” Wheeler said.
Another scam to be on the lookout for is calls and emails telling you you have to reregister if you didn’t vote in the last election. Never give your personal information over the phone.
If you have questions about your registration, it’s better just to contact the Board of Elections directly.