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Scammers take advantage of confusion during extension of eviction moratorium

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Scammers are taking advantage of the confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic as the eviction moratorium is extended.

The Better Business Bureau says while the Biden Administration has extended the eviction moratorium through Oct. 3, scammers are taking advantage of the confusion.

“This is a confusing and stressful time for many Americans, including those in the Midwest,” said BBB Regional CEO Jim Hegarty. “Con artists know this and aim to take advantage of it.”

According to the BBB, as the eviction moratorium winds down, residents should be on the lookout for scammers that offer loans, peddle credit repair services or promote government programs. It said these cons are a way to trick desperate people out of hard-earned money they may not have.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BBB said its Scam Tracker saw various reports of phony pandemic relief grants or government programs that allegedly provide funds to those impacted by the pandemic. Once a resident “qualifies” for the grant, the scammer asks them to pay a processing or delivery fee to get the funds. Of course, it said the grant does not exist and if a resident pays upfront, they just gave money to scammers.

The BBB said advance fee loans, debt relief and credit repair scams work in a similar way. It said they promise a loan or to repair credit for an upfront fee. No matter how much it may be needed, the BBB said not to fall for the “guaranteed loans” or impossible services, like removing late payments or bankruptcy from credit reports.

According to the Bureau, the recent Scam Tracker report shows a situation more people could see as the eviction moratorium nears.

One victim told the BBB that they had been desperate for financial aid for a few weeks and had been looking for loans despite being denied. They said they got a call from a loan provider that had finally accepted their application, with a catch: before the company could release the money, the victim was required to increase their credit score. Fortunately, the victim said the company had a way to help. They said the company would send money to their account and then the victim would have to send it back, which would boost their score. However, the victim said the scammers never transferred the money and when they “sent it back” they transferred $1,000 into the hands of the scammers and overdrew their account.

According to the BBB, the following tips can help residents stay safe from similar scams:

  • Double-check any government program before signing up. The BBB said if any organization offers a grant or relief funds, residents should get to know them before they agree to anything. Take a close look at the website and read reviews. If a scam is suspected, official contact information can be found to call the company and make sure the offer is legitimate.
  • Do not pay any money for a free government grant or program. The BBB said it is not really a free grant or program if a fee is involved. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee. Instead, residents should find out if the grant is legitimate by looking at grants.gov.
  • Advance fees should be a concern. The BBB said not all businesses that promise to help repair bad credit are scams, but if residents are asked to pay in advance, this should be a big red flag. In the U.S., credit repair and debt relief companies can only collect fees after a service is performed.
  • Avoid guarantees and unusual payment methods. The BBB said real lenders never guarantee a loan in advance. They will check credit scores and other documents before providing an interest rate or loan amount and will not ask residents to pay an upfront fee. Fees are never paid through gift cards, CashApp or prepaid debit cards either. Unusual payment methods and payments to an individual instead of a company are a big tip-off.

For more information about scams during COVID-19, click HERE.

If you have been the victim of a similar scam, you should report it to the BBB Scam Tracker by clicking HERE.

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