Scammers are using the presidential election as a way to get personal information on individuals who are being advised to be wary of emails they receive. A Harvard University graduate got an email from a PAC (political action committee), but wasn’t scammed because she Googled the name of the PAC and it didn’t exist.
The student told The Associated Press, “There was not a trace of them. It was a very inconspicuous email, but I noticed it used very emotional language, and that set off alarm bells.” She deleted the email and used social media to warn others.
The AP said American voters face an especially pivotal, polarized election this year, and scammers from everywhere are posing as fundraisers and pollsters, impersonating candidates and campaigns, and launching fake voter registration drives.
Warnings are coming from the FBI, the Better Business Bureau and cyber security experts. A Maryland chief security officer with ZeroFox said, “Psychologically, these scams play to our desire to do something — to get involved, to donate, to take action.”
The security officer said online grifters regularly shift tactics to fit current events, whether they are natural disasters, a pandemic or an election. “Give them something to work with and they’ll find a way to make a dollar,” he said.
The AP said foreign adversaries like Russia, China and Iran get much of the blame for creating fake social media accounts and spreading deceptive information, primarily because Russia was linked to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They do it using fake social media accounts, realistic looking websites and suspicious links.
The FBI said complaints to its cybercrime-reporting site jumped from 1,000 a day to 3,000-4,000 a day since the pandemic began. The quickly approaching election is giving them another opportunity to try and make money.
The chief marketing officer for the Better Business Bureau said, “Every election is heated, but this one is very much so. People are more trusting when they see it’s a political party or a candidate they like emailing them.”
Investigators at ZeroFOX routinely scan dark corners of the internet to identify threats against its customers. They found a large cache of personal data like phone numbers, ages and other information for sale during the summer.
Voters are being advised to be cautious before donating to any group that reaches out by email or text. They should check the group’s website or look to see if it is registered as a charity or campaign.
For those anxious to help others, the best advice from scam investigators is to, “Take a few minutes and do a little homework.”