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BBB: Watch out for eviction scams

((Source: KPLC))
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 11:51 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - While the Biden Administration extended the evictions moratorium through October 3, scams are still on the rise, the BBB says.

“As the eviction moratorium winds down, watch out for scammers offering loans, peddling credit repair services, or promoting government programs,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “These cons are a way to trick desperate people out of money they don’t have.”

Con artists often take advantage of the confusion and stress surrounding major events. With millions in the United States behind on their rent, the moratorium’s end is a perfect hook.

A BBB Scam Tracker report describes a situation more people will likely encounter as the eviction moratorium nears. A scam victim told the BBB that they had been in a desperate financial situation for a few weeks now, so they had been looking for loans and being denied left and right. The victim received a call from a loan provider, saying their loan application had finally been accepted. “There was just one catch,” Horton says.

“Before the company could release the money, the borrower had to increase their credit score. The company said they had a way to help.” They would send money to the borrower’s account, and then all they would have to do is send it back, which would boost their credit score. In reality, the scammers never actually transferred the money. When the victim “sent back” the funds, they transferred $1,000 into the hands of scammers and caused their accounts to be overdrawn.

The BBB says you can take the following precautions and measures to prevent yourself from getting scammed.

  • Double-check any government program before you sign up. If an organization is offering you a grant or relief funds, get to know them before agreeing to anything. 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 verify the offer is legitimate.
  • Be wary of out-of-the-blue calls, emails or text messages claiming to be from the government. In general, the government will not contact you using these methods unless you are granted permission.
  • Think something seems suspicious? Reach out to the agency directly. If you doubt that a government representative is legitimate, hang up the phone or stop emailing. Then, report the suspicious calls or messages. Make sure the agency is real. Scammers often makeup names of agencies and/or grants.
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant or program. It is not free if there is a fee involved. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee. Instead, find out if the grant is legitimate by checking grants.gov.
  • Advance fees are a concern. Not all businesses promising to help you repair bad credit are scams, but that’s a big red flag if you are asked to pay in advance. In both the U.S. and Canada, credit repair and debt relief companies can only collect their fee after performing the promised services.
  • Avoid guarantees and unusual payment methods. Genuine lenders never guarantee a loan in advance. 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. Fees are never paid via gift cards, CashApp, or prepaid debit cards. Unusual payment methods and payments to an individual are a big tip-off.

If you’ve spotted a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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