Don't Fall for Election Year Scams

Now that the presidential election is in full swing, you've probably heard a lot about the two candidates' proposals to help the middle class and improve the health of the economy. Now ask yourself this: in any of these discussions, has anyone mentioned a federal program to subsidize people's utility bills?

The answer is no—and that's why you should immediately disregard any phone calls or emails purporting to offer free government money to pay your utility bills. Consumers in a number of states have fallen for this scam, in which they're asked to turn over Social Security and bank routing numbers so that the government can make a "deposit" into their account. Of course, the deposit never arrives, and the consumers' valuable information now rests in the hands of criminals.

Similarly, disregard any phone calls from people asking for your personal information so that they can verify if you'll qualify for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Ditto on calls about completing a "political survey" so that you can get a free cruise.

Another common election-year scam involves chain letters. They're often rumors or straight up fiction about a political candidate, crafted to provoke supporters of the opposing party to forward these "shocking revelations" to all their friends. When you forward such an email, it may send a blind carbon copy to the originator—allowing them to harvest more addresses for future spamming.

Last, beware of any emails that say you need to verify your voter credentials by going to a website. If you have any questions about voter eligibility, or if you want to find out how to register to vote, contact your state election office. Don't respond to emails or phone calls requesting your Social Security number, address, date of birth, or other personal information. In these situations, it's far wiser to be proactive and contact the appropriate authorities, rather than react to an unsolicited online request.

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