Politics and scams: Consumers beware

By Dennis Horton
Better Business Bureau

Political candidates aren’t the only ones working on convincing speeches during this election year. Some of the most creative smooth talk and soaring rhetoric is coming from scam artists. If you think Washington D.C. has problems keeping promises, wait until you encounter a scammer.

Crooks would love access to your bank account, and they are using fake political justifications in attempts to do just that. Reports from around the nation indicate that plenty of scammers are taking advantage of the political season with their assorted schemes.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has some warnings for consumers who may be targeted by phone calls and emails from scammers this political season. Here are some of their favorite tactics:

Fake campaign fundraising

Crooks sometimes make random calls claiming to represent a political party, an election committee member or an actual candidate. Don’t fall for their request that you donate. Instead, ask for their contact information and try to reach them after hanging up.

The best idea is to research their party or their campaign office on your own and make your contribution (if they are a cause you support) through a legitimate campaign website. Tell them you’d prefer to do that when they first contact you.

Re-registration scams

Some consumers get calls from scammers who claim to represent an election commission. They will tell you (falsely) that you have to re-register if you did not vote in the last election.

If you receive any call about your voter registration needing to be updated, hang up and call your local Board of Elections.

Election polling prizes

In some instances, scammers have called claiming to be surveying for a political party. They may ask legitimate-sounding questions. Then the victim is told that he or she is eligible to receive a prize for their participation.

All you have to do is provide them with a credit card number to pay shipping, handling and/or taxes on the prize. This is fraud. No legitimate polling company offers prizes for your participation.

Tie-ins to causes

Also, respondents have been asked to donate to a controversial cause, based on their answers to the questions. The scammer chooses a specific cause that your answers have indicated you would support. Resist the temptation.

Make your donations only after you have called an organization that you are sympathetic toward. Don’t trust any anonymous callers to be who they say they are.

Vote-by-phone scams

Scammers who claim to be giving you the opportunity to vote by phone, email or text message are fake. Such voting is illegitimate. These scams are often phishing attempts, trying to get your personal information. Hang up or delete the message.

Con artists know you care about many different issues and they will try to get your money through your interest in those issues. Be alert for attempts to rip you off during this election year.

Off Topic – BBB Torch Awards for 2017

How often do you have a chance to say to a business, its owners and employees, you deserve special recognition? My guess is not too frequently – here’s an opportunity; nominations are now being accepted to honor exceptional businesses with the Torch Awards from the Better Business Bureau. These awards are presented annually to outstanding businesses in recognition of their commitment to high standards in relationships with their customers, employees, suppliers, competitors, and the surrounding communities.

Like the BBB Torch logo, the Torch Awards honor and help to illuminate the importance of a corporate conscience and the responsibility for creating a fair and honest marketplace.

The Torch Awards nomination process is open to all for-profit northern Illinois-based businesses. Nominations can come from individuals or businesses.

An individual may nominate the company he or she works for, owns or is affiliated with; as well as any company that individual does business with, or any company, which the nominating individual believes, meets the Torch Award criteria. A company can also be nominated by an organization (i.e., Chamber of Commerce, academic institution, ethics organization, trade association, etc.).

For detailed information on judging criteria, go to bbb.org/chicago/torch-awards. You may also e-mail me at dhorton@chicago.bbb.org. Deadline for completed entry is September 30.

Dennis Horton is the Director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

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