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Scam of the month: Elections

2024 is a presidential election year in the US, and that means citizens will be getting plenty of political calls.

While the majority of these will be legitimate, perfectly legal calls, there are certain election-related calls to watch out for. Fraudsters are taking advantage of the election season to sway votes, gather personal information and steal money. Here are some examples: 


Voice-clone robocalls

In the very first Democratic primary of the US presidential election, voters in New Hampshire received a Joe Biden voice-clone robocall encouraging voters not to vote in the primary. The AI-generated voice told voters to instead save their vote for the general election.

See our blog post Biden voice-clone robocall highlights AI-generated phone scams

While the people behind the Biden call were eventually tracked down, there are months to go before the general election in November and it’s likely we will see other voice-clone calls. These could imitate the voice of the candidate, or the voice of a trusted celebrity or public figure encouraging citizens to vote for a specific candidate or issue on the ballot.

In March, the Maryland attorney general's office issued a press release warning voters to beware of scam election calls. The press release stated: 

“Election call scams are a serious threat to the fairness and trustworthiness of elections, even posing a substantial threat to democracy itself. These scams usually involve robocalls that impersonate real political campaigns or candidates. Any call that directs you NOT to exercise your right to vote is a scam.”


Political fundraising calls

In addition to calls promoting candidates and issues, election season brings calls asking for donations to various campaigns and political action committees. For these types of calls, consumers are urged to be cautious and follow the advice from the FTC on how to handle fundraising calls.  

The FTC suggests that rather than immediately donating to an organization that calls you out of the blue, take time to evaluate the organization first, and then donate directly through the organization’s official website. Fraudsters may impersonate real political organizations or they may make up phony organizations with credible sounding names. 

Political surveys

Political surveys are also a mainstay of election season, and many of them are conducted over the phone. While surveys provide valuable insights for campaigns, people on the receiving end should use common sense when answering questions.

If a phone surveyor begins to ask for personal information, such as full name, address, Social Security number, etc., that’s a sign that it could be a scam. 


What Hiya users are saying

When a call comes in, consumers using Hiya Protect via their carrier, device manufacturer, or the Hiya mobile app, can tap a prompt to report the call as one of the 15 different types of spam, such as fraud, telemarketer, survey, political, and more. Users can also leave written comments about the call they just received. Here’s a sampling from users reporting unwanted calls related to elections and voting:

Politicians think just because they have access to voters’ names and phone numbers, it gives them the right to call or text. I disagree and I wish they’d stop calling and texting. I am reporting them as scammers.

Claiming to be from Federal Election, but asking for personal details.

Fraudulent presidential election scam asking me to call a phone number in order to gain access to my personal information.

Political poll, but asking for gift cards.

Call from Apollo, TX. Request for donation to questionable political charity.

Says political poll but having technical issues and will call back. Sounds like they’re sniffing for live lines.


Political calls surge during presidential primaries

Because Hiya users are able to specify “political” when reporting an unwanted call, Hiya is able to track political call volumes over time, state by state. Hiya’s data shows that political calls surged in the days and weeks leading up to the presidential primaries in each state where contests were held. On a national level, political calls peaked the week before Super Tuesday, March 5, when 15 states held their primaries. 


On a national level, political calls peaked the week before Super Tuesday, which was held March 5. 


In New Hampshire, political calls surged the week before the state’s Democratic primary on January 23.


TCPA rules for political calls

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) sets specific rules for political campaign calls and texts, which differ from typical telemarketing calls. For example:

  • Campaign calls and texts are exempt from Do Not Call List requirements.
  • Robocalls and robotexts to landlines are allowed without prior consent.
  • Robocalls and robotexts to mobile phones require prior consent.
  • Political text messages to mobile phones can be sent without the recipient’s prior consent if the message’s sender does not use autodialing technology and instead manually dials the number.

Can I stop political calls?

Phone customers may ask, “Can I stop political calls?” As mentioned above, some political calls are permitted even if the recipient is on the Do Not Call list.

One way to prevent political calls is to block them at the mobile device level. For example, Hiya’s call protection service, Hiya Protect, allows network providers to set custom block settings, which can include political calls. Subscribers should check with their phone carrier to see if it allows custom block settings and how to turn them on. Network providers interested in enabling this feature for their subscribers should speak to our team about implementing Hiya Protect.


Author Hiya Team