Scammers are on the prowl this fall, using fake political calls and bogus text messages to steal personal information from Wisconsin victims.

Political pilfering

With the Nov. 3 presidential election fast approaching, scammers are ramping up bogus political calls, pretending to be pollsters, campaign volunteers, fundraisers and even candidates. The scams can take many forms:

  • A fundraiser representing a political candidate calls. They’re collecting funds for a specific cause or on behalf of a group of people, such as veterans. The caller is pushy and demands immediate action, such as a credit card number.

  • A pollster calls and wants to ask some questions about the upcoming election for a political survey. They offer a gift card or other reward in exchange for a few minutes of time. After asking a few legitimate-sounding questions, they ask for a credit card number to pay for shipping and taxes on the “prize.”

  • A candidate’s pre-recorded voice is on the other end of the phone asking for a special contribution. At some point, the politician will ask for a donation and have the person push a button that redirects them to an agent, who will collect their credit card information. Such scams are especially difficult to spot, according to the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, because real politicians use pre-recorded calls.

Scammer attacks can come through the phone, mail, email, social media, texts or by a person showing up at the front door. Sharing personal information or a credit card number with a scammer can open a person up to the risk of fraudulent charges or future identity theft.

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The Better Business Bureau offered tips to avoid political scams:

  • Donate directly to the local campaign office or official website.
  • Beware of prize offers.
  • Don’t give out personal or banking information.
  • Research fundraising organizations before donating to them by checking Give.org to see if the charity is accredited.
  • Screen your calls.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited robocalls.
  • Register with the Do Not Call Registry by calling 888-382-1222 or register online at Donotcall.gov.

FoodShare scam

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Sept. 17 sent out an alert about a text messaging scam targeting FoodShare members. Scammers were sending out fake messages such as “You were chosen to receive food stamps or SNAP” and requesting personal information.

FoodShare members and applicants should never share personal information Social Security numbers, bank information, QUEST card number and PIN with individuals or organizations they do not know.

If a member or applicant receives a message they think is a scam, they should delete it without replying. To check if a request for information is valid, they should contact their local SNAP office, typically the county health department or tribal agency.