AARP New York Warns of Top 3 Election Season Scams to Avoid

Oct 25, 2012, 07:00 ET from AARP New York

With Election Day Approaching Scammers Up Their Game to Defraud Voters of Their Money & Identities

NEW YORK, Oct. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Election Day is just two weeks away, and while candidates across New York and the nation are courting votes, scammers may be trying to get something else from voters: their money and identity.  Today, AARP New York issued the top three election season scams to watch out for.

"Voters across New York State are caught up in the excitement of a presidential election year, and voter enthusiasm is a good thing, but we want to be sure they don't also get caught off guard by scammers," said David McNally, Sr. Manager of Government Affairs for AARP in New York. "We hope that by calling attention to three common voter-related scams, we can help prevent New Yorkers from becoming the next victims."

AARP's Top Three Election Season Scams:

1. 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. 

Tips to avoid it:  

  • The survey taker may ask a few softball questions about candidates and issues before moving into more sensitive inquiries 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. Crooks can use special technology to make legitimate survey-taking companies number and name appear when the phone rings.
  • Don't fall for prize lies. The Better Business Bureau warns about an ongoing "free cruise" offer for completing a political survey over the phone. At the end, you're asked to give your credit card number to cover "port fees and taxes." Don't do it, it's a scam.

2. "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 Florida.

Tips to avoid it:

  • People can't register over the phone in New York.  Actual signatures and only the last four digits of Social Security number are required in New York.
  • 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.

3. The "pay us" play.  Some scammers are even looking to get paid for completing free voter registration paper work. There is absolutely no need to pay legal-but-unnecessary companies offering this "service."

Tips to avoid it:

  • 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 New York State Board of Elections website: along with voting requirements. Fill it out and file it — not a cent need change hands.

The tips are courtesy of AARP contributing writer and scam expert Sid Kirchheimer, the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

AARP has over 2.7 million members in New York.

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