LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning residents to be aware of a new scam aimed at those struggling to pay rent, according to a news release Monday.
While the attorney general’s office hasn’t yet received complaints of the scam happening in Michigan, the Federal Trade Commission issued a notice recently to bring attention to the scheme.
It involves scammers offering tenants help paying rent – while stealing their personal and financial information.
The scammers may offer help in the form of rent and utility payments or legal aid to avoid eviction, according to the FTC.
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,” Nessel said. “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.”
Echoing suggestions from the FTC, Nessel is offering the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of a 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 upfront 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.
The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program can help those facing eviction or needing help paying rent.
For those who qualify, there may be help available for past due rent and utilities.
“Once the Legislature appropriates the emergency rental assistance funds, we are ready and will move swiftly to assist renters and landlords in need,” said Kelly Rose, MSHDA chief housing solutions officer. “Renters should avoid further financial risk by falling for scams. A legitimate program that can help is on the way.”