FTC, HUD Caution: Beware of Section 8 Scams

August 12, 2015 · by pcriadmin · Featured, PCRI

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and HUD have partnered to alert households of Section 8 scams which aim to cheat people seeking housing. If you are looking for Section 8 housing assistance, here’s something you need to know: don’t submit personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank or credit card accounts over the phone or on websites offering Section 8 vouchers or rental housing.

The Portland office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has heard recent reports of scammers who have made websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries and of apartment listings on Craigslist that are scams aimed at holders of Section 8 and other rental assistance vouchers. These websites or links may lead to an online application asking for personal information and can pose posts a danger to apartment seekers.

For rental housing seekers in Multnomah County, HUD recommends searching the Housing Connections website rather than Craigslist. For information on Section 8 “Housing Choice” vouchers, contact Home Forward, the housing authority for Multnomah County.

Here’s the real way things work: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 8 program provides funding to local government housing authorities. The local authorities issue housing choice vouchers to help people find housing in privately-owned rental units (including units owned by non-profit providers like PCRI). To get on the waiting list for a voucher, find your local housing authority and call or email them. In Portland, the housing authority is Home Forward. They can provide information about how to sign up for the Section 8 waiting list lottery. Again, there is no fee to register.

HUD cautions housing seekers to be cautious when searching online for the Section 8 voucher waiting list, the top search results often are bogus sites. The sites look very real: their names may say “Section 8,” and they might show an Equal Housing Opportunity logo. They may ask for fees and your personal information, like your Social Security number, but they won’t do anything for you. The scammers will keep your money and disappear. They also may give your personal information to identity thieves.

In another twist, some fake sites (or even real sites like Craigslist with scam links) list Section 8 properties that supposedly are available. They promise you can rent one, if you pay the first month’s rent via wire transfer or a prepaid card. The properties might exist, but the ads are fakes placed by scammers. If you pay, you just lose your money.

People have lost money and personal information to scammers – but they’ve also lost the chance to be in the actual lottery. Most people don’t realize they’ve been scammed until after the waiting list is closed.

Keep these tips in mind to avoid a Section 8 lottery scam:

  • Contact Home Forward to find out how to register for the Section 8 waiting list lottery. You can also find the email and phone number or other housing authorities on the HUD site. Follow their instructions to sign up.
  • Search for apartments using the Housing Connections website (rather than Craigslist).
  • Housing authorities do not charge fees, and they won’t reach out to you by phone or email to suggest that you join a waiting list. A housing authority also will never ask you to wire money or pay with a prepaid card. Those are sure signs of a scam.
  • Treat your Social Security number and other personal information (such as credit card numbers), like cash. Don’t give them out on a website you find through a search.
  • Have you seen this kind of scam? File a complaint with the FTC and HUD’s Office of Inspector General Hotline.

 

 

This information was complied from information provided by Margaret Salazar, Field Office Director, HUD Oregon State Office and by Lisa Lake, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC.

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