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Watch out for false promises as eviction moratorium nears end

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 6:07 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 6:46 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Biden Administration extended the eviction moratorium through October 3, which means scammers have postponed their tricks. Con artists often take advantage of the confusion and stress surrounding major events and since millions in the United States are behind on their rent, the moratorium’s end is a perfect hook.

As the eviction moratorium winds down, you should watch out for scammers offering loans, peddling credit repair services or promoting government programs. These cons are a way to trick desperate people out of money they don’t have.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, BBB Scam Tracker has seen numerous reports of phony “pandemic relief” grants or government programs that allegedly provide funding to people impacted by the pandemic. Once you “qualify for the grant,” the scammer will ask you to pay a processing or delivery fee to receive your funds. Of course, the grant doesn’t exist, and if you pay upfront, you just gave money to scammers.

Advance fee loans, debt relief and credit repair scams work in a similar way. They promise a loan – or to repair your credit – for an upfront fee. No matter how much you may need it, don’t be tempted by “guaranteed loans” or impossible services, such as removing late payments or a bankruptcy, from your credit report.

“Some of the things to look for is if they ask you for money up front to pay for a free grant,” said Carmen Million, the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana. “Well grants are free you don’t have to pay for them and if you ever apply for a government grant you know that it’s extremely intense. There’s a lot of paperwork.“

Protect yourself from this scam:

  • 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 you agree 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 make sure 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 make up names of agencies and/or grants.
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant or program. It is not really 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 if you are asked to pay in advance, that’s a big red flag. In both the U.S. and Canada, credit repair and debt relief companies can only collect their fee after they perform the services promised.
  • Avoid guarantees and unusual payment methods. Real 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 card. Unusual payment methods and payments to an individual are a big tip off.

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