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Housing Scams

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

How to Hire Movers and Avoid Moving Fraud

Most moving companies are reputable businesses that do quality work. But some moving companies use fraudulent practices to steal your money. Learn how to spot moving fraud before it happens, or find out how to report it if a company has scammed you.

Ways Some Moving Companies May Try to Cheat You 

Fraudulent movers 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 Hire a Mover and Protect Yourself

Get tools from Protect Your Move to help you protect yourself against moving fraud. 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. Do this before the move starts.

Get Help With International Moves

Get tips and resources about moving to another country.

Foreclosure Scams

Scammers may offer to "help" you make your mortgage payments, but they’re just out to take your money. Find out how to detect, report, and protect yourself against these scams.

Foreclosure Schemes

These scam operators find potential victims in several ways:

  • Advertising online and in local publications
  • Distributing flyers
  • Radio ads
  • Contacting people whose homes appear in the foreclosure notices in a local newspaper
  • Targeting specific religious or ethnic groups
  • Making promises to help you keep or sell your home, for a fee

Report Foreclosure Scams

How to Protect Yourself from Foreclosure Scams

Get reliable foreclosure help and counseling through the government's Making Home Affordable program. Or find a government certified housing counselor near you. Read more about foreclosure scams and find numbers to call for help.

Do

Be aware of these tricks that scammers use:

Don’t

  • Don’t send mortgage payments to any company that is not your loan servicer.
  • 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. Only share if you've confirmed their identity and that they represent a legitimate company.  
  • Don’t fall for rent-to-buy schemes or other mortgage fraud schemes.

Predatory Loans

Mortgage professionals can help you buy or refinance your home.  Most are trustworthy and provide a valuable service. But dishonest or "predatory" lenders do exist. They engage in practices that can put you at risk of losing your home to foreclosure. Learn how to protect yourself from and report predatory lending and loan fraud.

Report Predatory Loans

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

How to Protect Yourself from Predatory Loans

To protect yourself from predatory loans, get counseling or learn about the types of scams that dishonest lenders may use to trick you. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has counselors available across the country. These counselors can help you:

  • Navigate mortgage professionals

  • Look out for scams

  • Assist you with choosing the right type of loan

You can also protect yourself by learning the warning signs of predatory lending practices. 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. Non-profit counseling agencies offer courses which give advice about mortgages and foreclosures. Find out which counseling agencies are approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  

  • Before selecting a realtor to help you buy or sell a home, ask for and check their references. 

  • 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 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 or financial information through email or messaging. This includes your Social Security number.

  • 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.”

Rental Scams

Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresents themselves. Rental scams also misrepresent 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

If you're searching for rental properties online, it's important to learn about rental scams. 

Report Scams Targeting Renters

Report a rental scam to your state consumer protection or local law enforcement.

If you found the rental ad online, report the scam to the website where it was posted. Also, file a report with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

How to Protect Yourself from Scams Targeting Renters

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

  • The advertised price is much lower than that of similar properties.

  • Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, or overuse capital letters.

  • The ad uses uncommon spellings of words, like "favour" instead of "favor."

  • You can only work with an agent. The agent says that the owner 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. They may urge you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property.

Do

  • Learn the basics of how rental listing scams work.

  • Get the terms of your rental in writing, including fees, rent, and maintenance.

  • Get a copy of the lease, signed by both you and the property owner/manager.

  • 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.

  • Visit real estate websites. See if the home you want to rent is also listed in another city.  A scammer could have copied the photo or description of another rental to use in their ad. 

  • Learn how military families can avoid rental scams.

Don’t

  • Don’t wire money as a deposit or payment for the 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 or Social Security number to a property owner without verifying their identity.

Scams Targeting Rental Property Owners

If you're offering a property for lease, it's important to be aware of renter's scams. 

Report Scams Targeting Property Owners

If you feel that you’re the victim of an renter’s scam involving the internet, report it to the FBI.

Contact your state attorney general’s office. The office may explain your legal rights as a landlord. Also ask how to file a complaint against a renter or potential renter.

How to Protect Yourself From Scams Targeting Property Owners

Do

  • Search your renter’s name and email address to see if others have flagged them as a 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 who will pay the rent.

  • Conduct an image search of your property. An imposter may use images of your property to create their own listings as part of a scam.

  • 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 from your potential tenant if he or she is out of the country.

  • Don’t fall for an unexplained urgency to rent the property. 

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Last Updated: July 23, 2020

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