Make Sure Your Campaign Donations Aren't Funding Scams

(*)(**)(***)(****)You know what time it is: that moment when politicians spam your inboxes with requests for money. And gosh darn it, sometimes, they deserve it! Beto, take my money! Warren, here’s my debit card and bank account information! AOC, here’s my life savings! But sometimes, it’s worth being a (*****)little(******) more discriminating when it comes to who accepts your campaign donations, as we’ve learned this week.(*******)(********)(*********)(****)On Tuesday, an individual was charged with defrauding hopeful donors, accepting more than $(***************************************************************************),(*********************************************************************************) as part of fake political action committees supporting Bernie Sanders, O’Rourke, and other democratic leaders. (*********)(**********)(**)(***********)(************)(*************)(**************)(***************)(****************)(*****************)(******************)(*******************)(********************)(*********************)(********************)(**********************)(***********************)(************************)(*************************)(**************************)(***********************)(***)(*)(***************************)How to Spot a Scammy Crowdfunding Campaign(****************************)(****)Crowdfunding campaigns are effective ways for people to help others in need. But news that a couple …(*********)Read more (*****************************)Read(******************************)(*******************************)(********************************)(****)How did he manage to do it? Well, he set up a website with flowery (although often truthful) campaign language and a simple donate option. In fact, scam PACs are a dime a dozen, scoring millions off donors with false promises and doing so through aggressive telemarketing and mail schemes.(*********)(****)How can you avoid falling victim to a similar campaign scam? Here’s what you should know when you just want to donate a little money to your presidential hopeful or PAC.(*********)(*********************************)Every donor’s site should have contribution rules(**********************************)(****)When you’re on a legitimate campaign website, you should be able to easily find the contribution rules. These are mandated by the Federal Election Commission and they’re the statements you attest to when donating to political officials, candidates or PACs. Here’s the standard template you’ll find across these websites: (*********)(***********************************)(************************************)(*************************************)I am a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted permanent resident (i.e., green card holder).(**************************************)(*************************************)This contribution is made from my own funds, and funds are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.(**************************************)(*************************************)I am making this contribution with my own personal credit card and not with a corporate or business credit card or a card issued to another person.(**************************************)(*************************************)I am at least eighteen years old.(**************************************)(*************************************)I am not a federal contractor.(**************************************)(***************************************)(****************************************)(****)If you don’t see these rules listed anywhere, run away! If you do, it’s a good sign—but don’t take it as total proof that the website is valid just yet. (*********)(****)You might see minor variations to these rules on legit websites, with a few lines added or language that’s condensed (O’Rourke’s presidential campaign website, for instance, includes language that has you attest that you aren’t making a donation using a card tied to a PAC that compromises your ability to legally donate).(*********)(*********************************)You shouldn’t be forced to pay by cash or check(**********************************)(****)Sometimes, you might find language on a website that strongly suggests that paying in cash or check is preferred to a credit card. Again, run away! This is likely designed to get you so you can’t dispute the charge once you uncover the ruse.(*********)(****)Here’s how the Bernie Sander scam site (not run by Bernie Sanders) attempted to trick prospective donors, as NBC News captured: (*********)(***********************************)(****)“EVERY TIME WE PROCESS YOUR CREDIT CARD DONATION, THE BIG BANKS TAKE UP TO (************************************************************************)% OF THE DONATIONS JUST FOR PROCESSING YOUR CREDIT CARD DONATION...THAT IS WHY WE ARE GIVING YOU THE OPTION...TO MAKE YOUR DONATIONS IN CASH OR CHECK.”(*********)(****************************************)(****)They’re giving you the “option”. Well, that seems more like a strongly worded preference! A legitimate campaign website should be persuading you to pay by one method over another.(*********)(**)(***)(*********************************)Identify a reputable intermediary source(**********************************)(****)When you donate to a PAC, political official, or candidate, you should always identify the intermediary source that accepts your money. These are typically secure organizations that collect funds online on behalf of the recipient. The two most common ones you’ll stumble across are ActBlue (for the left) and the newly launched Patriot Pass (for the right). If you don’t see either of these as your intermediary, you should back away from the computer immediately. (*********)(****)You can also contact ActBlue on its website or any other intermediary asking them to confirm that they’re collecting funds on behalf of your chosen PAC or individual (a search for Patriot Pass didn’t turn up much, but it’s still fairly new).(*********)(*****************************************)(**)(***********)(************)(*************)(******************************************)(***************)(****************)(*****************)(******************)(*******************)(********************)(*********************)(********************)(**********************)(***********************)(************************)(*************************)(**************************)(***********************)(***)(*)(***************************)How to Survive the (*************************************************) Presidential Campaign Without Losing Your Mind (****************************)(****)From the makers of Campaign Season (***************************************************), get ready for the not-that-new-and-definitely not improved …(*********)Read more (*****************************)Read(******************************)(*******************************)(********************************)(*********************************)Look up where their funds have been allocated in the past(**********************************)(****)Unfortunately, some shifty PACs aren’t all that different from legitimate ones. Many raise funds with the intent of supporting political candidates or particular causes, but instead, pocket much of that money to support their own efforts (i.e., themselves). The industry seems sadly under-regulated, though keeping some of the money you raise is not technically illegal, especially when used for common purposes like administrative costs. These PACs often still donating to your desired causes, just in smaller numbers than you’d imagine!(*********)(****)That said, your best bet is to check the past efforts of the PAC you’re supporting by doing a search on Open Secrets. Open Secrets lets you see how every PAC has issued its funds to candidates.(*********)(****)Take a look at a PAC like the Republican Majority Campaign. It’s a group dedicated to causes like lowering taxes and electing Republican officials. During the (**************************************************) political cycle, it collected over $(***************************************************************),(*********************************************************************************)—and yet, a measly $1,(*****************************************************) went to supporting candidates. (*********)(****)This comes with the caveat some PAC’s do not contribute directly to candidates or elections. These are often referred to as super PAC’s and they’re responsible for a lot of the campaign ads and pamphlets you might stumble across in the mail. You wouldn’t necessarily find these funds reflected on a website like Open Secrets. (*********)(****)Open Secrets is not bulletproof, but it’ll still help you sift through the mud of questionable PACs.(*********)(*******************************************)(********************************************)(****)(*****)(*********************************************)For more from Lifehacker, be sure to follow us on Instagram @lifehackerdotcom.(*******)(********)(**********************************************)(******)(*********)(*******************************)

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