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How to Avoid Election Season Scams

Cutthroat and brutal, politics has bred some unsavory characters throughout the years. But election season con artists can make even the most underhanded politicians' tactics look tame.

The Better Business Bureau urges people to be on the lookout for four main scams this election season:

1. There's no such thing a free lunch (or cruise)

Who doesn't love a cruise, right? But, if someone offers you an all-expenses-paid voyage to the Caribbean in exchange for your responses to a few political questions, they are more likely to steal your identity than send you on an exotic getaway. Legitimate political surveys typically do not involve rewards for participation, and they certainly won't ask you for a debit or credit card number at the end of the survey, like a fraudster will.

2. No candidate is going to pay your utilities

Another favorite of 2012 election con artists is the, "President Obama wants to pay your utility bill," scam. You may be told via text message, flier, door-to-door solicitation, phone call, or social media that Obama has pledged to give you credits towards paying your utility bills. Scammers will ask for your bank routing and Social Security number so they can send the credits directly to your bank account. If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. Bill paying is not part of Obama's election platform and victims of this scam are hit with the double whammy of falsely believing their bills have been paid, while simultaneously putting themselves at high risk for identity fraud.

3. Not all fundraising calls are created equal

Campaigns will sometimes solicit donations via telephone, but it's important to remain wary of these kinds of calls. Even if the person on the other end of the line sounds completely legitimate, you're probably better off not giving them any financial information. That doesn't mean you can't support your chosen candidate—it's just better if you contact their campaign directly. You can check out the candidates' websites for contact and donation information.

4. The state doesn't do eligible voter checks

It's every voter's individual responsibility to make sure that they are properly registered to vote. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the state board of elections who asks you for a credit card or Social Security number so they can verify your identity and eligibility to vote, do not give it to them. If you have questions about the status of you or your loved one's registration, contact your local election agency.

These aren't the only scams out there, but they do demonstrate an important trend in election cons.

In a press release, Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, says that fraudsters typically change their tactics to try and hit on the hot-button issues of a particular presidential race. In the case of the issue-heavy 2012 election, this could include everything from economic relief, to health care.

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