Table of contents
Table of contents
Americans received billions of political text messages and millions of political robocalls during the 2020 election season. Although much of this influx was unwanted and annoying, these messages were mostly legal (more on that later).
However, there were plenty of scams among these messages, too. Scammers seized on the election as cover for attempts to mislead or defraud people.
So, how do you protect yourself against political phone scams and take back your privacy? How do you determine what’s legit and what’s not? How do you block scam calls — political or otherwise — for good?
In this guide to political phone scams, we’ll show you how to identify political scams and stop scammers from calling or texting you.
A political phone scam is any call or text disguised as a legitimate political message that’s intended to mislead or defraud people.
Political phone scams often take the form of political robocalls and automated political text messages.
These calls or texts will try to get you to take some action, sometimes by inspiring panic or anxiety, and usually by citing consequences. Often, they’ll ask for your credit card number, Social Security number, or other personal information.
These political scams are not to be confused with legal political robocalls and texts, which are permitted by law if they follow certain rules.
Related: Learn about different kinds of political robocalls and texts
During elections, people get calls and texts from all sorts of legitimate actors, many of whom are asking for personal information or donations.
That creates good cover for scammers who can easily impersonate campaigns, nonprofits, government agencies, or other groups. Be careful not to let your guard down and fall for one of these political phone scams:
You cannot vote by phone in the U.S. — any call or text message that tries to convince you to vote over the phone by providing personal information is a scam.
Are political robocalls legal? Are political text messages?
The answer is frustrating: It depends.
Consumer protection rules regulate what senders of political messages are allowed to do; however, the restrictions differ from other types of robocalls or spam texts.
Basically, the FCC’s Rules for Political Campaign Calls and Texts requires your prior express consent for political campaigns to contact you on a mobile device, unless they manually dial your number to send a political text message. If you own a landline telephone, you have less protection: political calls to landlines are allowed without prior consent.
Political robocalls and texts are exempt from National Do Not Call Registry requirements, though they must follow specific rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
For more information, check out the FCC guidelines, and if you receive a call or text that does not comply with the rules, you can lodge a complaint.
Now, these rules apply to legitimate political calls and texts, such as those from actual campaigns or nonprofit groups. Scammers are already breaking the law by attempting to defraud or mislead you, and aren’t likely to follow the rules.
Scammers look to take advantage of people’s patriotism and good nature, so it’s important to be vigilant to protect your privacy. To help you outsmart the scammers, we’ll cover a few ways to spot a suspicious political robocall or political text message.
First thing’s first: Familiarize yourself with legitimate political robocalls and texts. Although they may be annoying, these calls or texts typically are:
Here’s what political robocalls sound like:
Democratic political robocall
Republican political robocall
Political text message
To spot a political phone scam, look for the telltale signs of traditional scams:
If you’ve received a scam message, chances are other people have too. People often share their scam experiences on social media sites like Twitter and Reddit. So if you’re still not sure it’s a scam, you can do a quick search to see if others have the answer.
Here’s what political phone scams look like:
3 tips for vetting political calls and texts
1. Don’t rely on the caller ID alone to decide if the call is legitimate. It can be manipulated on both calls and texts via spoofing to appear as any number. Caller ID spoofing lets spammers change the number that shows on your caller ID — for example, adding the Washington, D.C. area code to the phone number.
2. If you’re being contacted by a PAC or other fundraising organization you’ve never heard of, it can be hard to distinguish whether the call or text is a scam. If you receive messages claiming to be from such an organization, do research on it. If you wish to donate, go directly to the organization’s website, rather than clicking any links sent in a text or providing any information over the phone.
3. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Do not give out any personal or financial information, and hang up the call immediately.
Luckily, there are several methods you can use to stop political text message spam and block political robocalls, whether they’re scams or just annoying.
To block legal political text messages:
Legally, political groups must give you the option to opt out of communications. But they don’t always make it easy, and sometimes they make mistakes and continue sending messages to numbers that have opted out. If all else fails, use a third-party robocall blocker like RoboKiller.
Because political messages are largely legal, RoboKiller blocks them differently than other kinds of spam calls and unwanted text messages. You must specify to RoboKiller’s algorithm that you consider these kinds of calls and texts to be spam. Or, if a caller or message gets enough spam complaints, it could get universally blocked — democracy in action!
To block illegal political phone scams:
Scammers won’t play by the rules and may be using caller ID spoofing, so unsubscribing and blocking phone numbers usually isn’t enough.
The most effective method for stopping political scam calls and texts is to use a third-party robocall and spam text blocker. Recommended by the FTC, robocall blockers use call data or reports from users, the FTC, and other sources to predict which calls and texts are illegal or likely scams, then intercept them before they ever reach you.
If you don’t want to use a robocall blocker, you can also try using the built-in blocking features on your devices. Many Android phones have built-in options for identifying, blocking, and reporting spam calls and texts. iPhone users can silence unknown callers, which blocks any incoming numbers not saved to your address book.
Want to get good calls only and take back control once and for all?
Thanks to AI and machine learning — and a global blacklist of spam numbers that is updated daily — RoboKiller is 99% effective at preventing spam calls and texts before they ever reach you. We empower users to take control, supporting you both with the tools you need to secure your private information, and with education on how to block scam calls and stop political texts and calls.
RoboKiller helps you block political phone scams and lets you personalize how you receive political robocalls and texts that are legitimate, but annoying.
By default, RoboKiller allows legitimate political messages — but if you’d like to block these calls and texts, you can customize the app to silence them.
When it comes to scams, though, RoboKiller’s algorithm blocks almost all harmful robocalls and texts before they ever reach your phone.
You can also turn on our Neighborhood Spoof Blocking feature to block callers who are not in your contacts that call you from spoofed numbers with the same first four digits as your number. If a sender or message gets enough spam complaints, it may also be universally blocked by the algorithm.
Everyone deserves some Zen; join us in the fight against spammers so everyone can live life spam-call-free.
Read more: How does RoboKiller know which calls to block?