While candidates court your vote for the upcoming Nov. 6 election, scammers may be trying to take your money and identity. Here are three voting-related cons to watch out for:
Survey swindles. Along with Gallup, Quinnipiac University and other legitimate pollsters, there are plenty of unscrupulous telephone survey-takers whose real goal is to collect your personal information or money.
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They may ask a few softball questions about candidates and issues before launching into more sensitive queries about your income, medications or the like. If they get you to divulge personal data, they can use it for identity theft or sell it to other companies that will then hit you with yet more phone calls or spam.
Don't let Caller ID fool you. Quinnipiac's phone number was recently "spoofed" in a tech support scam — crooks used special technology to make its number appear when the phone rang. (Most dubious pollsters simply block their numbers.)
Don't fall for prize lies, either. The Better Business Bureau warns about an ongoing "free cruise" offer for completing a political survey on the phone. But at the end, you're asked to give your credit card number to cover "port fees and taxes." Don't do it.
Easy registration — or quick identity theft? In the weeks before every election, unsolicited phone calls, letters and front-door offers proliferate asking you to update or "confirm" your voter registration.
This is an old ruse to collect personal and financial information such as credit card numbers for identity theft. These scammers have already struck in retiree-rich South Florida.
"Earlier this summer, our residents were getting calls saying they need to reregister and could do it over the phone, and then were asked for personal information including their full Social Security numbers," says Susan Bucher, supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, Fla.
The truth: People can't register over the phone in Florida (or in most other areas). "We need their actual signature," Bucher tells Scam Alert. "And we require only the last digits of a SSN on an official registration form."
The Federal Trade Commission adds that in legitimate voter registration drives, you'll be given a form that you directly return to the appropriate agency. You'll never be asked to provide financial information.
The "pay us" play. There's no need to pay legal-but-unnecessary companies that offer to complete voter registration paperwork for you.
If you can't get a registration form at a city, county or township clerk or election board office (or at a post office, library or other public facility), you can find one easily online at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Website, along with your state's voting requirements. Fill it out and file it — not a cent need change hands.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.