The most successful scams have a measure of truth to them. And they often take advantage of a potential victim’s economic troubles or worries about their future.
The election of Donald Trump, who stoked fears in many during the campaign, may be a boon to scammers who want to take advantage of those fears. (And yes, had Hillary Clinton won, the scammers would have tried to capitalize on that.)
Here’s what you should watch for in the coming weeks and months.
Donate to “the cause”
Both Democrats and Republicans will see the election as an opportunity to fundraise.
Expect scammers to pounce, using your political preferences against you. And remember, con artists can be very creative.
Many backers of Hillary Clinton are wondering what the future holds for Democrats and some may want to participate in the process. Expect scammers to call with requests for donations to help, maybe to support lobbying efforts on behalf of Democratic causes, to fight to keep Trump’s nominees off the Supreme Court, to protect rights for the LGBTQ community. Or maybe they’ll ask for contributions to start a legal defense fund — in case Trump keeps his promise to prosecute Clinton.
While any of these “causes” may be legitimate, you can expect plenty of frauds to try to collect money.
Crooks will also target Trump supporters.
Again using fear, they may suggest money is needed to support certain programs, such as to build a wall on our border with Mexico.
If you receive any calls from someone claiming to represent a political organization, don’t give them any of your private information, and certainly don’t give them your money. Instead, independently find the organization and give it a call if you’re really interested in giving.
Scammers have been impersonating government agencies for a long time now. They’ve pretended to be the IRS, the FBI, police departments and even immigration agencies.
They threaten arrest and even deportation unless you immediately pay what they claim you owe.
Throughout his campaign, the president-elect made promises about the future treatment of immigrants, Muslims and others. That’s what makes phony deportation threats so realistic right now.
No real government agency will simply call you and say you’re going to be arrested or sent out of the country. It doesn’t work that way.
So if you receive a call, just hang up. If authorities are coming for you, they won’t announce it first, and they certainly won’t allow you to buy your way out of any predicament.
This election, there’s been lots of chatter about the voter rolls and making sure there would be no voter fraud.
So before the election, scammers swooped in, claiming to be from local election commissions. They’d tell potential victims they needed to register again, or they needed to update their voter information, or if they didn’t vote in the last election, they needed to take action.
The hucksters would then they’d ask for personal information, including Social Security numbers and other information that would help the scammer steal your identity. Some even asked for credit card numbers or bank account information.
Sometimes these would be by phone, but this scam also happened through email and regular mail, reports said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, real voter registration drives will give you forms that you have to return to the correct local agency.
And they’ll never ask for credit card or bank account info.
Don’t expect this scam to end just because the election is over.
They’ll just tweak the con, this time saying there was a problem with your vote in the presidential election, or President-elect Trump is undertaking steps to get rid of unqualified voters.
Don’t fall for it. If you have questions about your registration, contact your county’s election officials.
Petition and survey scams
You can expect lots of disagreements on the issues in the months to come, both before and after the inauguration.
Petitions are a common way for groups to garner support, but before you sign any — either online or in person — think twice about what information you’re providing.
No real petition will require you to provide a Social Security number, your date of birth and other private information.
And if you’re being rushed or pressured to sign, don’t do it. Make sure you have time to carefully read anything before you put your name to it.
Then there are the surveys.
Fake political operatives may call to ask you to participate in a survey about the election or about the upcoming changes in leadership for federal, state or local governments.
The surveys will ask your opinion, sure, but they’ll also ask for your private information — something no real survey will require.
Use sound judgment before participating.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.