Election season fraud has been big news in recent years, and candidates aren’t the only targets.
It’s been widely reported that Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election involved the high-profile hacking of major political players. This election season, it’s possible that fraudsters may again attempt to influence election results by leaking confidential files or manipulating social media to sway public opinion.
Phishers also go after private citizens directly. Working alone or as a group, criminals may use the theme of an election to steal sensitive voter information for personal financial gain.
In this season for local and statewide elections — and with presidential primaries on the horizon — you may notice an uptick in requests to sign petitions, fill out polls and surveys, and share political content on social media. Participating in the democratic process shouldn’t compromise your identity, but unfortunately, some of these activities could leave your personal details exposed.
Here at InfoArmor, it’s our goal to protect you while you’re making your voice heard. This November and beyond, try these tips for maintaining your civic duty without getting snagged in a scam.
Be careful with personally identifiable information (PII)
Have you ever signed a local candidate’s nominating petition at the farmer’s market? What about participating in a voter registration drive in the parking lot of a music festival? Or answering a quick email survey from a favorite candidate?
Unfortunately, these everyday actions pose risks.
That petition may ask for sensitive details, such as your name and address — and the person with the clipboard may or may not be who they say they are. If you leave your voter registration card in the care of a canvasser, the sensitive information may not be stored securely. And an email that looks a lot like a legitimate missive from a presidential hopeful could actually be a fake.
With a little caution, you can be patriotic and still protect your privacy. Just consider the following practices, which are all aimed at protecting your personally identifiable information (PII):
- If you decide to fill out a voter petition or survey, be choosy about what you share. Don’t be afraid to ask if certain fields are required, and avoid giving out your Social Security or driver’s license number.
- If you register to vote in a public place, opt to hand-deliver or mail in the required form rather than leaving it behind with a table of volunteers.
- Remember that it’s only possible to vote at the ballot box or via an official absentee ballot. Ignore solicitations that claim you can register to vote by phone, text, or email in exchange for sharing your personal information.
- Before clicking a link in an election-themed email, give it a once-over for phishing hallmarks such as blurry images and typos. Hover your mouse over any links before clicking through.
- Follow your gut. If an email or petition seems to be probing for too much information, opt not to share.
If you’re a PrivacyArmor member, this November is a good time to visit the portal and switch on key features to deepen your defenses. For example, once you sign up for dark web monitoring, you can opt to receive alerts if pieces of your PII, such as your driver’s license number or voting registration number, hit the dark web.
Go straight to the source
Unfortunately, rumors and hoaxes can proliferate around Election Day, and bad actors can use misinformation to influence election results. In the digital age, voters should be especially wary of online voter suppression schemes, such as doctored photos showing long lines at the polls or broken voter machines. This type of misinformation may be aimed at keeping you home on election day.
The best way to combat false information is to get your facts directly from an official government website, which should have a URL ending in “.gov.” Random texts or emails about a change in your voting location or voter status should be regarded with suspicion. Visit your state or local election office online to confirm your registration and to locate your polling place.
Be skeptical on social
A recent Senate Intelligence Committee report confirms that Russian operatives used social media to carry out a widespread disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 election.
Fake accounts traced to Russian actors were strategically used to encourage division among Americans by race, religion, and ideology. According to the bi-partisan report, the sweeping campaign was “an attempt to pit Americans against one another and against their government.”
The evidence shows that these manipulations continue today. Some outlets report that “digitally manipulated” videos, called “deepfakes,” could be the next big problem for elections.
In response, social media platforms have upped their defenses. Facebook, for example, is now requesting more information from advertisers and providing transparency to users about who pays for ads.
But it’s still smart to be wary about election-related posts on social media, and to keep an eye on your own account for signs of takeover. If you’re a PrivacyArmor member, consider switching on social media monitoring. We’ll keep tabs on social accounts for everyone in the family, watching for account hijacking that could lead to reputational damage.
InfoArmor has your back during election season — and beyond
Even with the utmost care, you may find yourself sharing more personal information than usual during election season.
If you’re a PrivacyArmor member and you’ve enabled key features such as dark web and social media monitoring, our rapid alerts will let you know right away if we spot your PII in the wrong place.
If you’ve accidentally overshared your personal information this election season, you may be wondering what to do next. In the PrivacyArmor portal, you can always run a Digital Exposure report to see where your personal information is publicly available on the internet. At the first sign of identity theft, our in-house Privacy Advocates are ready to step in and jump-start the restoration process, saving you time, money, and stress. Here at InfoArmor, it’s our goal to protect you round-the-clock — before, during, and after you visit the ballot box.