During the last days of election season, get-out-the-vote initiatives go into full swing. Most candidates now have multifaceted operations involving phone banking, targeted texting and email campaigns, which seek to engage likely supporters across multiple channels. Modern campaigning still involves significant expenditures on standbys like TV and radio advertising, but it has evolved dramatically in the last decade into something altogether more sophisticated and personalized than a strict stream of televised, broad-brush attack ads.
Accordingly, there are new risks for voters, who might receive fraudulent communications and be phished. The 2018 season alone has featured lawsuits over unsolicited SMS and concerns about the volume and tenor of desperate-seeming – yet somehow legitimate – fundraising emails. To help during this cycle and in future elections, we’ve put together this quick guide for distinguishing between real and risky campaign outreach. Here’s what to look out for:
Partisan campaign collateral claiming to be from an official government agency
This scam can take many forms. It could be a text saying your early or mail-in vote wasn’t recorded and that you need to vote again for a specific party, with the implication that this directive comes directly from your state’s elected secretary of state. Alternatively, it might be a piece of direct mail that looks like an official document but is really a vague fundraising appeal. In either case, it’s best not to engage since doing so would likely involve handing over personal information or even actual money.
Emails with no attributions or other fine print
Legitimate campaign email solicitations almost always contain a few items at the bottom of the message: a “Paid for by [campaign name],” a physical address and an unsubscribe button linking to the campaign’s official site. If any of these items, especially the “Paid for by” box, are missing, proceed with caution or, better yet, simply delete the message and move on.
Instructions demanding you take illegal actions
Election laws vary widely by state. If someone is reaching out telling you to register in North Dakota (which has no voter registration) or to vote early in Alabama (which has no general early voting), you can be confident that they don’t have your best interests at heart. Another surefire scam is any message telling you to record your vote by email, text or social media, which is unacceptable in every jurisdiction. Only mail/absentee and in-person voting are legal.
Stay safe this election season and in the ones to come – check out our internet security solutions to learn more about protecting your data and containing threats.