How To Avoid Housing Scams On The Internet

The Internet is a wonderful resource for finding affordable housing opportunities. When searching for your new home, protect yourself from becoming a victim of a Section 8, or affordable housing scam. If you are researching housing on the Internet, you must be aware of several possible traps. Application fee scams require interested Section 8 voucher applicants to pay a fee to submit an application. You should know that HUD policy prohibits application fees for the Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing programs. There are no fees associated with applying to these lists, and any website requesting a fee to apply is not legitimate. Any website that claims to be a source of affordable housing information, or offers an application for a federal rental assistance program that requires payment is probably a scam. And watch out for data collection scams. Data collection scams appear as an online affordable housing application. The website will usually say it is affiliated with a housing authority or another housing organization. They’ll ask you to complete an application, but instead of being placed on a waiting list, your personal information is sold to unethical marketing companies that will spam you with unwanted calls and emails. You can verify if an online application is real by making sure the online application is located on, or linked directly to the housing agency’s website; or, by contacting the agency named in the application. Fake applications ask personal questions that would never be found on a real housing application. Questions that may appear on scam websites include, “Do you have diabetes?” Or, “Would you like to get your free credit score?” Then, there are deposit payment scams. These are ads for units where a deposit is required before visiting the property. These fraudulent advertisements are often found on Craigslist, and other classifieds websites. Usually, the address of the supposed unit either doesn’t exist, or it is not the address of a home or apartment community. These are not landlords; they are actually criminals. Any legitimate landlords would allow interested tenants to view the property, or get more information at first contact. Use reliable sites that verify properties, such as Preservation Database, or Affordable Housing Online, which offer free access to information about affordable housing opportunities. Lastly, voucher purchase scams promise that anyone who pays a fee can skip that area’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher waiting list. They claim you’ll immediately receive a voucher without having to wait months or years. Just like the deposit payment scam, once payment has been made, the person offering the voucher disappears, and no voucher exists. This scam could appear anywhere, even in an email or social media message. It can be easy to fall for this scam because it feels like someone is providing immediate relief to your housing dilemma. But you know what they say, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. The only way to legitimately receive a Section 8 voucher is to apply to an open waiting list, and go through the approval process. Remember, it’s probably a scam if they: Have a fee to apply to a waiting list. Offer to sell you a voucher, or to move you ahead for a fee. Ask for a deposit before you view the unit. Ask personal questions that have nothing to do with renting a unit. So, when you are browsing online, be vigilant. Protect yourself by learning how to identify and report online housing scams. For more details on these scams, how to recognize them, and how to report them to the authorities, view the guide here:

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