Don’t open the door to scammers promising loans and government relief to stop eviction.
Tenants facing eviction are now in the sights of scammers offering false promises of grants, loans and government relief to stave off eviction. That’s according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which recently issued a warning about eviction moratorium scammers taking advantage of desperate tenants.
“Watch out for scammers offering loans, peddling credit repair services, or promoting government programs,” warns the BBB. “These cons are a way to trick desperate people out of money they don’t have.”
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium through October 3, 2021 for regions most affected by COVID-19, but that moratorium ended when it was struck down by the Supreme Court on August 26. The eviction moratorium protected an estimated one-quarter to one half of renters, according to Bloomberg. Now those tenants are in a tough spot, and their desperation makes them easy targets for scammers.
Of course, eviction moratorium scammers have risen to the occasion, armed with an assortment of shady promises and practices designed to steal money from renters down on their luck. Here are the most common eviction moratorium scams and how to spot them.
Phony pandemic relief grants and programs
During the pandemic, the BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of phony “pandemic relief” grants or fake government programs allegedly providing relief to people impacted by the pandemic. Once you “qualify for the grant,” the scammer asks you to pay a processing or delivery fee to receive the funds. “Of course, the grant doesn’t exist, and if you pay upfront, you just gave money to scammers,” says the BBB.
Advance fee “guaranteed” loans
If a company “guarantees” approval on a loan without checking your credit, the loan offer is likely a scam, says the BBB. The scammer asks for an upfront fee to “lock in” the loan and then disappears, never delivering the promised funds. Credible lenders never guarantee a loan in advance, says the BBB.
“They will check your credit score and other documents before providing an interest rate and/or loan amount and will not ask you to pay an upfront fee,” according to the BBB. “Fees are never paid via Green Dot MoneyPaks, iTunes cards, or wiring money. Unusual payment methods and payments to an individual are a big tip off.”
Credit score and money transfer scams
The BBB Scam tracker report describes one scenario that more people are likely to encounter now that the eviction moratorium has ended. Victims receive a call from a “lender” congratulating them on approval for a loan after they’ve applied for several loans due to their dire financial situation. There’s just one catch, however. The phony loan provider won’t lend the money until the borrower increases his or her credit score.
The fake lender then offers a way to “solve” that problem, offering to send money — $1,000, for example – to the borrower’s bank account so the person can send it back to “boost the score.” Of course, this method isn’t really a way to increase your credit score, just a ploy for scammers to get their hands on your money when you send back $1,000 that the fake lender never actually transferred to your account.
How to protect yourself from eviction moratorium scams
- Verify any government program before signing up. “Take a close look at their website and read reviews. If you think you might be dealing with an impostor, find the official contact information and call the company to make sure the offer is legitimate,” says the BBB.
- Never pay for a “free” government grant or program. “A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee,” says the BBB. “Instead, find out if the grant is legitimate by checking grants.gov.”
- Avoid guarantees and unusual payment methods. Real lenders don’t ask you to pay upfront fees or pay them via gift cards, CashApp or a prepaid debit card.
Local eviction relief may be available
If you’re facing eviction, check for state and local government programs available for renter assistance in your region. Try to work out a realistic payment plan with your landlord to catch up and avoid eviction. Contact your city’s free legal aid office, which can direct you to local assistance or relief resources.