Housing Scams

Beware of these frauds and scams when buying or foreclosing on a home.

Avoid Moving Fraud

While most moving companies are reputable businesses that do quality work, some companies use fraudulent practices. They may:

  • Demand cash upfront before the move
  • Avoid giving you a written estimate
  • Ask you to sign a blank contract in advance
  • Only have one cell phone number as a contact and no local physical address
  • Show up to your house with a rental truck with no company logo on it
  • Give you a quote over the phone without any onsite inspection of your goods
  • Give you a low price and change the estimate substantially at your destination
  • Hold your belongings hostage until you pay more money

Report moving scams

How to protect yourself

Get tools from Protect Your Move to help you protect yourself against moving fraud. And keep these tips in mind to avoid moving scams:

Do

  • Get a company representative to come to your home for a realistic estimate of the move.
  • Get a written estimate from several movers. In general, estimates are based on time, the number of movers needed, who does the packing, and the number of rooms to be moved.
  • Verify that the company is insured in case your goods are damaged during the move.
  • Ask for the company’s U.S. Department of Transportation DOT number and use the FMCSA database to check if the company is registered.
  • Reach out to your local, county, or state consumer affairs agency or state attorney general to see if there is a complaint record.

Don’t

  • Don’t accept an estimate over the phone.
  • Don’t sign a blank contract.
  • Don’t pay for the move in advance or in cash.
  • Don’t let movers start packing your goods into the truck without reviewing the contract and estimate again before the move starts.

International Move

Get tips and resources about moving to another country:

Back to Top

Foreclosure Scams

Scammers sometimes contact homeowners who are having trouble making their mortgage payments to offer them “help.” Criminals like this promise to help you keep your home or sell your home without having to go into foreclosure, for a fee — but they’re just out to take your money, not help you.

These scam operators find potential victims in several ways:

  • Advertising online and in local publications
  • Distributing flyers
  • Contacting people whose homes appear in the foreclosure notices (they can easily find these notices online or in a local newspaper)
  • Targeting specific religious or ethnic groups


Report Foreclosure Scams

How to Protect Yourself

Do

Be aware of these tricks that scammers use:

Don’t

  • Don’t send mortgage payments to any company that is not your lender.
  • Don’t sign any documents without having them reviewed by a lawyer or independent expert.
  • Don’t stop making mortgage payments.Don’t forget that real help from the government is always free.
  • Don’t give anyone your personal information, Social Security number, or bank information without confirming their identity and that they represent a legitimate company.  
  • Don’t fall for rent-to-buy schemes or other mortgage fraud schemes.

Back to Top

Predatory Loans

Most mortgage professionals are trustworthy and provide a valuable service, helping you to buy or refinance your home. But dishonest or "predatory" lenders do exist and engage in practices that increase the chances of borrowers losing their homes to foreclosure.

Report Predatory Loans

Learn how to file a complaint about mortgages and lenders, and who to send your complaint to.  

How to Protect Yourself

Learn about the types of scams that predatory lenders use to trick you. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has counselors available across the country to help you navigate mortgage professionals, look out for scams, and choose the right loan type for you.

Predatory lenders may try to:

  • Sell properties for much more than they are worth using false appraisals
  • Encourage borrowers to lie about their income, expenses, or cash available for down payments in order to get a loan
  • Knowingly lend more money than a borrower can afford to repay
  • Charge high interest rates to borrowers based on their race or national origin and not on their credit history
  • Charge fees for unnecessary or nonexistent products and services

 

Do

  • Before you buy a home, attend a homeownership education course offered by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved, non-profit counseling agency.
  • Interview several real estate agents, and ask for and check references before you select one to help you buy or sell a home.
  • Get information about the current values and recent sale prices of other homes in the neighborhood.
  • Hire a qualified and licensed home inspector to carefully inspect the property before you are obligated to buy.
  • Determine whether you or the seller will be responsible for paying for the repairs.
  • Shop for a lender and compare costs.
  • Be suspicious if anyone tries to steer you to just one lender.Learn more about how to spot predatory lending and how to protect yourself.
  • Become an educated consumer and learn about loans, mortgage fraud, and consumer protection.

Don’t

  • Don’t lie about your income, age, or anything else on a home loan application.
  • Don’t give anyone your personal financial or identification information, including your Social Security number, through email or messaging.
  • Don’t use a lender, real estate professional, or contractor who cannot provide you with a license number and recommendations.
  • Don’t fall for loans or offers that seem too good to be true.
  • Don’t take out a loan offered to you by telemarketers, flyers, or door-to-door sales.
  • Don’t feel obligated or pressured to sign up for a loan or service “today.”

Back to Top

Rental Scams

Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresent themselves or the terms and availability of a rental property. Fake ads and fake responses to rental ads can hurt both tenants and property owners.

Scams Targeting Renters

Report Rental Scams

Report a rental scam to your state consumer protection or attorney general's office, or local law enforcement.

If you found the scam rental ad online, also report the scam to the website where it was posted and to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

How to Protect Yourself

Be suspicious that the property or transaction could be a scam if:

  • The advertised price of the rental property is much lower than that of similar properties
  • Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, overuse of capital letters, or use uncommon spellings of words, like "favour" instead of "favor"
  • The person trying to rent you the property claims to be an agent for the property owner who is too busy, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable to handle the rental
  • The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property
  • The owner or agent isn't able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it
  • The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics, urging you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property
  • Learn how military families can avoid rental scams.

 

Do

  • Learn the basics of how rental listing scams work.
  • Get everything about the terms of your rental including fees, rent, maintenance, condition, and improvements in writing and signed by both you and the owner/manager of the property as part of your lease.
  • Do a search on the owner, real estate management company, and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
  • Research national non-government real estate websites to see if an ad you are considering is listed in another city with duplicate pictures or wording that a scammer might have copied. 
  • Read information from the FBI about common rental scams.


Don’t

  • Don’t wire money as a deposit or payment of first and last month's rent. Wiring money is the same as giving cash; you can't get a refund, even if you find out the offer was a fraud.
  • Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Don’t pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a lease.
  • Don’t rent a property that you are unable to see before signing the agreement.
  • Don’t send money for a rental overseas.
  • Don’t give your personal information including financial information or your Social Security number, to anyone over the phone or over email without verifying their identity.


Scams Targeting Rental Property Owners

Report Rental Scams

If you feel that you’ve been a victim of a renter’s scam involving the internet, file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Contact your state attorney general’s office for information about your legal rights as a landlord and how to file a complaint against a renter or potential renter.

How to Protect Yourself

Do

  • Search your renter’s name and email address to see if they have been flagged by others as a rental scammer.
  • Consider using a tenant background check, also known as a consumer report.
  • Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission about legal background checks.
  • Before renting your property, meet the prospective tenant, or the person responsible for paying the rent.
  • If you are the person listing a property for rent, be aware that you could be victimized by a potential renter as well as imposters who use images of your property to create their own listings.
  • Request each renter’s personal references and follow up with those individuals.
  • Carefully verify your renter’s income.

Don’t

  • Don’t accept overpayment for rental properties.
  • If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it. 
  • Don’t rent or sell to a would-be tenant or buyer sight unseen.
  • Don’t accept a cashier’s check if your potential tenant says he or she is out of the country and he or she would like to send you one.
  • Don’t fall for an unexplained urgency to the entire process. For example, the tenant says he or she is arriving in the country next week and needs to establish residency right away.
Share This Page: Facebook Twitter Email

Back to Top

Do you need help?

Ask us any question about the U.S. government for free. We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it.

What you think matters!

Last Updated: September 19, 2017