Michigan residents warned about rental payment assistance scam

Scammers looking to capitalize on hardship caused by pandemic

The Federal Trade Commission issued a notice recently to raise awareness of the scheme, which involves scammers offering tenants help paying rent while stealing their personal and financial information. (pixabay.com)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning Michigan residents to beware of a new scam aimed at those struggling to pay rent.

While Nessel’s office has not yet received complaints of the scam occurring in Michigan, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a notice recently to raise awareness of the scheme, which involves scammers offering tenants help paying rent while stealing their personal and financial information.

Many Michigan residents are finding it difficult to pay rent during COVID-19 because the pandemic has caused economic hardship for countless families and individuals. Scammers looking to capitalize on that hardship may offer to provide assistance in the form of rent and utility payments or legal aid to avoid eviction, the FTC warns. To get help, residents must first provide personal information or money.

“Those facing eviction are more likely to fall victim to this scam, as they may have limited resources and nowhere else to turn,” said Nessel. “This pandemic has caused financial hardship for many Michiganders, and provided scammers with an opportunity to use that desperate set of circumstances to their advantage. Do not fall victim to their schemes. Always protect your personal and financial information unless you are absolutely certain it is being provided to a legitimate organization.”

How to prevent falling victim to scam

  • Never give your bank account, debit card, credit card or Social Security numbers to anyone who contacts you without first independently verifying that person’s identity.
  • Do your research on any organization that requests personal information or money.
  • Investigate the company you are considering using online with the words “scam,” “fraud” or “complaint” to see what others are saying. Do this prior to making contact.
  • Avoid companies that tell you to stop paying rent or require an up-front fee.

Anyone struggling to make rent payments should discuss it with their landlord and look into local programs that offer rental assistance and other help.

Those who are facing eviction or need help paying rent may soon find assistance through the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERA) administered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). For those who qualify, there may be help available for past due rent and utilities.