RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Crooks are targeting consumers already struggling financially. The Better Business is alerting those looking for affordable housing, to be on the lookout for fake websites, designed to steal your money and personal information.
If you're looking for affordable housing, you've probably done a quick search online. Carrie Schmidt, with The Department of Housing and Urban Development, says crooks know it's one of the first places people go. They are after your cash and personal information.
"I think it is awful because these are people that are in need of assistance and they are doing the best that they can," she said.
Be aware, the housing authority will never ask for a fee for you to be placed on its Section 8 waiting list. The BBB posted a warning about the scheme and offers ways you can protect yourself -- like not wiring money our using a prepaid card.
Carol Jones-Gilbert, with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, says she's already received the calls from victims. She says there is a big need for affordable housing.
"Within four hours of opening our list, we had 15,000 applications and we received a total of over 24,000 applications," she said.
The best way to protect yourself, never trust your web searches. If you are looking for affordable housing -- go directly to RRHA.ORG. If you fall for the scheme, not only will you lose your money but -- you could miss out on your opportunity for housing.
"There is no way that we can help them other than just educating them on how not to fall victim to these scams in the future," she explained.
In another version of this scam, the fake websites list properties that supposedly are available. Crooks try to get you to pay the first month's rent using a wire transfer or a prepaid card. Once you pay, your money is gone and because the crime is committed online, it's almost impossible to get your money back.
"I think it is awful because these are people that are in need of assistance, and they are doing the best that they can," Schmidt said.
If you think you've been victim, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission -- the website is FTC.gov. Again, keep in mind, 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.
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