The FBI has reported an increase in suspicious websites popping up that look like official election websites but are in fact fraudulent. These sites have multiple purposes:
- to interfere with the 2020 vote
- to spread wrong information on how to vote
- to collect your personal, sensitive information
- or to get you to download malware on your device.
The URLs of these websites are close imitations of state and federal election websites created with similar URL or domain names, with the goal of catching users who aren't paying close attention or who accidentally enter the wrong address.
Here are five things you can do to protect yourself:
1. Research the Site
Before clicking on a link or typing in a site, research what the site is about. Often you can find something on the legitimacy of the site with a short background check. Most legitimate election sites end with ".gov" - but not always, so do some legwork upfront.
2. Pay Attention to the URL
Look for the https:// at the beginning of the address. The S in https:// stands for secure and indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data. If a website uses http:// (no S), that doesn’t prove that it's nefarious, but it’s something to watch for.
To be on the safe side, you should never enter personal information into a site without https://.
3. Check the Domain Name
An easy way for criminals to trick you into these types of sites is to create websites with addresses that mimic those of large brands or companies, like Yah00.com or Amaz0n.net. Scammers count on you skimming over the address and domain name, so it’s always worth double-checking the address bar if you’re redirected to a website from another page.
4. Protect Yourself Technically
Keep computer desktops, laptops, and smartphones protected with the latest operating systems and application security patches. Keep up-to-date anti-malware programs, learn to use mobile devices securely, and enable pop-up blockers.
5. Don't Forget Social Media
Social media is a hotbed for nefarious activity. Be especially cautious on group pages or in private groups, where you may not know the people who are engaging. Some could be anonymous or fake accounts. False information can remain longer in private groups not seen by a wider audience who might otherwise flag or debunk the content.
Read beyond headlines. And remember, images and videos can be taken out of context or deepfakes.
Keep in mind that you can flag a suspicious post on most social media platforms or contact FactCheck.org or PolitiFact directly by email or their websites if you are unsure about whether a political post or ad is real. The site Snopes.com is also helpful in factchecking false claims.