BBB: Scammers targeting renters in need of assistance

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With thousands of Memphians and Mid-Southerners behind on their rent, officials are issuing a new warning about a scam that’s directly targeting them.

Daniel Irwin of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South says watch out for false promises from crooks. The BBB says con artists are trying to take advantage of renters by sending out bogus calls, emails, texts, and social media messages offering you help to apply for special funds that aren’t free.

“With all of the confusion regarding the COVID eviction moratorium, we’ve been warning people to be on the lookout for scams and, unfortunately, we’re seeing a huge uptick,” Irwin said.

Thursday, after watching WREG Live at 9 interviews about the rental scam, an elderly woman called the BBB to say crooks contacted her.

“Someone got a text that said rental assistance,” Irwin said. “She followed the directions on the text and luckily, she didn’t get scammed. She recognized the person on the other end was trying to steal her personal information.”

A scam like this is a particular concern in Memphis, once nicknamed the eviction capital. Cindy Ettingoff, the CEO and general counsel of Memphis Area Legal Services, says in April there were about 375 eviction filings, and that number has now increased to 3,000.

“What we’re hearing is there are more people than ever before who are living in their cars,” Ettingoff said.

She says these are tough times for many families and hopes they won’t fall victim to scams promising help.

“We have had folks who are desperate, and when you’re desperate you’re so much more susceptible to scams, and that’s our real concerns,” Ettingoff said.

The BBB of the Mid-South says do your research by contacting the agency the scammer claims to be representing. Do not pay for a “free” government grant or program, and don’t give away any personal information such as name, address, social security number, or date of birth.

The BBB says if you’ve this text message or something similar, please report it at BBB.org/scamtracker.

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