This week, Affordable Housing Online was alerted to an online scam that is impersonating not only our business, but also the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Affordable Housing Online is not affiliated with this fraudulent web page and flyer, and our company is seeking legal action to stop this unauthorized use of our brand.
According to the HUD housing authority source that contacted us, this scam is targeting renters near the coast of California. But since it’s an online scam, renters all over the country may be targeted. So, we believe it’s important to let renters nationwide know how to spot and avoid this scam.
The scam works in two parts. First, there is a PDF document that is designed to look like a standard flyer that real HUD housing authorities use to announce a waiting list opening.
On the top of the flyer is a logo that simply says “Section 8 Assistance,” and an October 2023 date in the right corner to make readers believe this is recent news. The worst offender on this flyer, however, is the text in the top left corner that makes it appear to be an official HUD document.
Posing as a federal entity is a flagrant act of fraud. There are harsh penalties for those who do so.
Moving down the flyer, there is large bold text that simply states, “Section 8 Waiting List Open,” and has the following sentence below it: “HUD allocated $15 billion to tackle the economic crisis and prevent evictions.”
There are some clear red flags here. Readers should immediately notice that no location is mentioned in the flyer. Real public notices will let the reader know where the housing assistance is provided.
Also, the statement about the economic crisis is an unsourced, general statement. It’s added to make the document appear to be genuine.
Below that is an application period that is conveniently open for a few more weeks. Just like the date in the header, this gives readers a false sense of urgency.
The last part of the flyer is a web address that readers are encouraged to visit. Affordable Housing Online is not publishing the web address of this scammer for the safety and security of renters.
This is the page that mimics the design of news articles on our website, uses our company name, and has a deceitful byline imitating my name, Nathan Brunet.
The intent of this scam is unknown. As of the writing of this article, the fake “Apply online now” button brings users to an error page. But this page and flyer is clearly intended to mislead renters looking for Section 8 housing. The website may be updated in the future to scam users out of money or private information.
How To Report Fraud
If you become a victim of this, or other types of housing scams, you can report fraud online with easy-to-use forms:
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Report Fraud
The FTC shares fraud reports with law enforcement to help with their investigations into the scammers.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – Internet Crime Complaint Center
Run by the FBI, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) investigates cyber crime reports, and helps educate victims about the latest cyber scams.
How To Identify Housing Scams
Find out the most common housing scams that target renters looking for housing in the Housing Scam Prevention Guide. This guide was made possible thanks to a partnership between Affordable Housing Online and HAI Group.