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How to Spot a Rental Assistance Scam

October 29, 2021

Scammers take advantage of people during times of fear and uncertainty — and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. While federal rental assistance is being rolled out to communities across the country, scammers are actively using this opportunity to prey on consumers in need, by pretending to be someone they’re not.

Emergency Rental Assistance Scams — TRUE or FALSE?

1. TRUE OR FALSE: A federal agency might ask me for personal information so they can help me with housing expenses.

FALSE. A state or local rental assistance program will likely ask for your information on an application. The program you apply to may even follow up with you to help you complete your application. But a federal government agency will not ask you for personal or financial information to process your rental assistance application. If you receive an email, text, call, or social media message from someone claiming to be the federal government, chances are it’s a scam.

2. TRUE OR FALSE: If I need help quickly, I can pay a government agency or rental assistance program to expedite my rental assistance application.

FALSE. Local programs are not allowed to charge a fee to process your application for emergency rental assistance. If you’re asked for cash, gift cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or similar forms of payment to help you get rental assistance, it’s probably a scam.

3. TRUE OR FALSE: If it looks official, it probably is.

FALSE. Scammers often use official government logos or create fake websites that look official – but aren’t. If you get an email or text with a link to a government website, beware. It could be a scam. For trustworthy information, it’s best to visit government or official websites directly.

Find and apply to your local rental assistance program using the federal Rental Assistance Finder.

Spotting an Imposter Scam

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has received reports of emails and texts from scammers targeting people looking for rental assistance, often using the name and logo of government agencies and national organizations. In some of these cases, the messages may ask you to provide sensitive personal and financial information. Now that you know how to spot an imposter scam, you don’t have to fall victim.

How to Fight Fraud

If you spot an imposter scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. 

Learn more about other COVID-19-related scams

To apply for rental assistance, you must apply to a state or local rental assistance program. Use the CFPB's Rental Assistance Finder to locate your local program.

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