Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Four Common Election Scams to Avoid This Year

Criminals may target voters with bogus registration sites, requests for donations to fake PACs, and other fraud

spinner image a person stands in front of a blue background, surrounded by types of election scams
Illustration: Matt Chinworth

As Michael Bruemmer, 65, shopped for a Christmas tree at a Kiwanis lot near his Austin, Texas, home, a voter registration volunteer approached him with an iPad, wanting to register him for the next election. The registration ploy was a scam, but unbeknownst to the scammer, Bruemmer was not an easy target: He’s a fraud expert and vice president of data breach resolution for Experian, a data analytics and consumer credit reporting company. Bruemmer quickly noticed misspellings on the supposed registration page.

“I said, ‘First of all, I’m already registered to vote, and second, your site is fake,’” recalls Bruemmer. 

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

The flustered scammer stammered and gave excuses but quickly recovered — then, Bruemmer says, the guy asked him for his phone so he could download a registration app, “and I said, ‘I’m sorry, sir. You’re not going to download anything.’” 

That was two years ago. Scammers have only grown more sophisticated, in part due to advances in and availability of AI, and they’re likely to use this year’s election to target your data and cash. Here are four common scams and ways to protect yourself.

1. Voter registration scams

When Bruemmer’s scammer offered to download a voter registration app on his phone, he likely would have downloaded a malicious app instead, allowing cybercriminals to steal personal data such as payment information and login credentials. Some apps “can suck people’s information out over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,” Bruemmer cautions.

How to vote in your state

Learn more about absentee and early voting, ID requirements and registration in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

The more common problem, however, involves links to fake voter registration forms, which scammers send by phone, email or text. Those links may be phishing scams to collect personal data (such as your passwords and Social Security number) for or allow others to access your devices, according to Experian.

Ways to protect yourself:

  • If someone claims you’re not registered to vote and offers to register you by phone, hang up. You cannot register by phone, email or text. In all 50 states, you can only register to vote online, by mail, or in person at a local election office. 
  • The safest option is to register at a government location or do so by mail. If you do register online, do not use unsolicited links. 
  • Voter registration drives often occur at events such as festivals and farmers markets, and sometimes the filled-out forms are left on tables where anyone can see them, the Identity Theft Resource Center warns. A better option is to take a form, fill it out, and mail it or deliver it in person to an election office. 
spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.

2. Robocalls

Days before the January New Hampshire primary, as many as 25,000 Granite State residents received a robocall from what sounded like Joe Biden but was actually an AI-generated voice. The message: Don’t vote. “Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday,” the fake Biden said. In response, the Federal Communications Commission issued a declaratory ruling in February that made “voice cloning technology used in common robocall scams” illegal.

Despite the ruling, voters should remain on high alert for AI-generated audio, whether in phone calls or social media posts. 

Shopping & Groceries

Coupons for Local Stores

Save on clothing, gifts, beauty and other everyday shopping needs

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >

“The one genre of misinformation I’m most worried about for the election is fake audio,” says Dan Evon, senior manager of education design for the News Literacy Project. With video, he explains, visual cues can help indicate it’s fake, such as speeches where the words don’t match the candidates’ mouths. With a robocall, “There’s not as many obvious red flags to indicate whether something is false.”

Scammers could use fake audio for multiple purposes, from spreading misinformation to directing voters to a fraudulent donation site.

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Be suspicious of robocalls and confirm whether the information is accurate. If a robocall tells you that your polling place will be closed on Election Day, for example, don’t believe it. Instead, follow up with your local election office. 
  • “If you receive a suspicious call from someone trying to influence your vote, the best thing to do is just hang up,” notes a consumer alert from North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. And never trust a robocall that directs you to donate, Bruemmer advises.
  • Be skeptical of unexpected calls from someone claiming to be a politician or a celebrity. In recent months, scammers have released deepfake videos of famous people such as Tom Hanks, Elon Musk and Dolly Parton for fraudulent product endorsements.

3. Donation scams

Cybercriminals also use fake audio to request campaign contributions. In some cases, a supposed candidate may ask for a donation and tell you to push a number on your phone, which directs you to a representative, reports ID Watchdog, a consumer site from Equifax. Or an actual human may call, encouraging you to donate. You may also receive emails or texts with donation links; as with bogus voter registration links, donation links could also be phishing scams. 

Some solicitations come from fake political action committees (PACs). The FBI defines scam PACs as “fraudulent political action committees designed to reroute political contributions for personal gain,” which is a federal crime. Bruemmer compares their tactics to phony charities that raise money following natural disasters. They frequently seem credible and often employ high-pressure, emotional appeals. 

Ways to protect yourself:

  • If you want to donate to candidates, go to their certified site. “Don’t answer any phone calls, don’t click on any links in an email or text, even if it’s from somebody you recognize or you might think is reputable,” Bruemmer says. “Someone could have taken over their account and started spamming you.” 
  • Don’t rely on Caller ID: Scammers can impersonate a political campaign phone number through a tactic known as spoofing.
  • Another reason to not answer calls: Cybercriminals only need a few seconds to record your voice and use AI to create a dialogue that could evade authentications with your financial institution or credit card company.
  • Visit the Federal Election Commission’s website and search to see if a PAC is registered. If it’s not, it’s not legal, the FBI states.
  • If you’ve been targeted by a scam PAC, contact your local FBI field office and ask to speak to an election crimes coordinator.

4. Fake surveys, petitions and polls

Opinion polls are almost as common as campaign rallies during election season, but be careful when participating in a survey or signing a petition. 

The process often seems innocuous. Someone contacts you by phone, email, text or in person to answer a few questions. Or you might receive an urgent email — often featuring a well-known politician’s name and photo — asking you to sign a petition and make a small contribution, notes former Federal Election Commission Chair Ann M. Ravel. The problem, however, is when you’re asked to provide personal information, such as your birth date and email address. Some scammers may offer a gift card or other prize as an incentive to participate in the survey, and then request your Social Security number, home address and other info — including your credit card number to cover taxes and shipping costs for your prize. 

Ways to protect yourself:

  • A legitimate survey may ask how you to plan to vote along with your political affiliation, and surveyors may request demographic information, such as age or race, notes Equifax’s ID Watchdog. But don’t share more specific information. Age is one thing, your birth date is another. Decline to provide your name, address, email address, Social Security number or driver’s license number. 
  • As with other election scams, don’t click on survey links from unsolicited emails and texts. 
  • If someone conducting a survey or poll offers a prize, don’t participate. “Real political polls rarely offer prizes for participation and none would ask for a credit card number,” ID Watchdog states. 

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.