AARP Eye Center
With billions of dollars in rental assistance flowing to states, a federal agency warned this week that scammers are using texts to deceive renters and prey on people in need. The bad actors are trying to obtain your personal information, steal your money or do both.
"The look and feel of this scam are very convincing,” said Bev Yang, who works for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which issued the warning.
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The CFPB's logo has been hijacked in these scams, as have the logos of other federal agencies and nonprofit groups, said Yang, a policy analyst in the CFPB's Office for Older Americans.
Feds not taking these applications
Important to know: The federal government is not processing applications for COVID-19-related emergency rental assistance and will not reach out to people for their personal information so they may qualify for such help.
To try for rental assistance, a consumer must apply through a state or local program. Eligibility is based on income and other criteria. You can find your local rental assistance program using the CFPB's rental assistance finder.
"Scammers are targeting renters across the nation who need housing help."
The bogus texts at issue use language “suggesting that they understand the challenges that low-income renters are facing and they want to help,” Yang said. One version of the scam requests that consumers upload photos of their driver's licenses, among other things.
According to Yang, it's unclear how many variations of the scam are now targeting renters. “Scammers may test different versions of the same scam simultaneously, and there's no limit to the number of scams that could be targeting renters during this vulnerable time,” she said.