CHICAGO - Scammers are capitalizing on confusion and stress surrounding evictions to take money from people with unstable living situations.
The Better Business Bureau is calling on Illinois residents to be cautious when negotiating loans, acquiring credit repair services or dealing with people promoting "government" programs.
One victim received a call from a loan provider, saying their loan application had been accepted.
"There was just one catch," said Steve Bernas from the BBB. "Before the company could release the money, the borrower had to increase their credit score. The company said they had a way to help."
The scammers promised to send money to the victim's account and asked for it to be sent back, which would inflate the borrower's credit score.
However, the scammers never actually transferred the money, causing the borrower to send them $1,000 and cause their accounts to be overdrawn.
The BBB urges you to report scams at BBB.org/ScamTracker.
They have issued the following advice to consumers looking to avoid scams:
- Double-check any government program before you sign up. If an organization is offering you a grant or relief funds, get to know them before agreeing to anything. Take a close look at their website and read reviews. If you think you might be dealing with an impostor, find the official contact information and call the company to verify the offer is legitimate.
- Be wary of out-of-the-blue calls, emails or text messages claiming to be from the government. In general, the government will not contact you using these methods unless you are granted permission.
- Think something seems suspicious? Reach out to the agency directly. If you doubt that a government representative is legitimate, hang up the phone or stop emailing. Then, report the suspicious calls or messages. Make sure the agency is real. Scammers often makeup names of agencies and/or grants.
- Do not pay any money for a "free" government grant or program. It is not free if there is a fee involved. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee. Instead, find out if the grant is legitimate by checking grants.gov.
- Advance fees are a concern. Not all businesses promising to help you repair bad credit are scams, but that's a big red flag if you are asked to pay in advance. In both the U.S. and Canada, credit repair and debt relief companies can only collect their fee after performing the promised services.
- Avoid guarantees and unusual payment methods. Genuine lenders never guarantee a loan in advance. They will check your credit score and other documents before providing an interest rate and/or loan amount and will not ask you to pay an upfront fee. Fees are never paid via gift cards, CashApp, or prepaid debit cards. Unusual payment methods and payments to an individual are a big tip-off.