Section 8 scammers cheat people seeking housing

By now, most of America has seen this video of Cpl. Casebolt throwing a teenage girl in Texas to the ground and then drawing his weapon on unarmed teenagers who came to her aid. A cursory viewing of the video gives one the impression that this is yet another example of police misconduct surrounding race. What is not shown is the instigating altercation that brought such a large police presence to a peaceful suburb. A resident in the planned community had thrown an end-of-the-school-year party and invited dozens of teens from outside the home owners association. A mother living within the community allegedly made racist comments about one of the teenage attendees and Section 8 housing. The verbal exchange turned violent as seen here, and the police were called.

Section 8 is a government assistance program designed to help indigent Americans afford one of the most basic of human needs: housing. Participants in the program include people of all races and ages. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (“HUD”) most recent Resident Characteristics Report shows that 50% of Section 8 participants nationwide are white while 45% are black, and that 31% of participants, nearly one-third, are elderly. Section 8 also carries with it a stigma and is often used as a slur, in relation to race or income, by the more fortunate against the less so. As rental costs increase across the country, taking a greater proportion of our income, many Americans are displaced and left struggling to find somewhere affordable to live.

The lists of Americans waiting for government assistance with housing have grown well beyond the numbers that Section 8 can actually support. The people on these waiting lists are a growing population of second-class citizens, impoverished, under-represented, and because of their position, vulnerable. While these individuals may be the target of derision and discrimination, like what allegedly took place in Texas, they can also be the target of scams.

Individuals seeking Section 8 assistance can be on a waiting list for years before receiving any actual benefit. Desperate for a way to jump up on the waiting list, hopeful Section 8 participants are turning to the internet, and scammers are following suit. Scammers have set up websites that claim to be Section 8 lotteries or to put applicants on the waiting list. These sites have the appearance of legitimacy, often including correct logos or a list of Section 8 housing properties. Elders, who tend to be more trusting, are especially vulnerable to these scam websites given how difficult they are to distinguish from legitimate sites. These scam sites ask for applicants’ money or personal information to enroll them in a lottery or place them on a list. Some sites even ask for a deposit of the first month’s rent to secure an apartment. However, these scam sites do nothing but bilk people out of their money.

If you look to the internet for information regarding Section 8 housing assistance, start with HUD’s website. Click on “State Info” and then your state. This way, you’re guaranteed to be directed to a legitimate public housing authority. There is never a fee to register for Section 8 housing. Do not give out personal information until you have confirmed you are dealing with a legitimate housing authority.

Remember, if you find a deal that sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

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