AG Nessel reinstates consumer alerts after reported fake landlord scam

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Attorney General Dana Nessel has reissued multiple consumer alerts related to a “fake landlord” scam based out of Detroit.

The alerts come just a week after NBC News and Outlier Media published findings from a four-month investigation focused on the “fake landlord” scam in the city.

The report notes that in some cases, “people who have lost their house to foreclosure have kept collecting rent from tenants without letting on that they’re no longer the landlord. In others, con artists have broken into vacant houses, changed the locks, listed them for sale or rent, then collected payments from victims. Some fake sellers have even filed false deeds to make fake sales look legitimate, lawyers and experts say.”

I was appalled and saddened to read the hardship these victims are facing at the hands of scam artists who target tenants. The best way to prevent a scam from happening is to know the red flags to look for, so you can spot them before a bad actor tries to take advantage of you or someone you know. It’s also important to remember my team is ready to investigate consumer complaints. We just need help from the public in reporting suspected scams.” 

Attorney General Dana Nessel

Elderly people and those with either low income or poor credit are especially vulnerable to home lending scams.

The Office of the Attorney General has released the following tips to protect your home:

  • Consider a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured mortgage when evaluating mortgage choices. FHA loans have low down payment requirements, easier credit and underwriting standards. FHA lenders are required to follow foreclosure prevention procedures to assist the homebuyer in keeping his or her home. 
  • If you get ambiguous answers from a prospective lender or feel uneasy about the arrangement, seek a loan from a different lender. 
  • Ensure your loan agent is employed by a lender that is a licensee or registrant and is authorized to sell mortgages in Michigan. To find out if a lender is authorized to sell mortgages in Michigan, contact the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 877-999-6442. You may also search for licensees on the DIFS website
  • Read and understand everything you sign. 
  • Obtain copies of everything you sign.  
  • Never sign a blank document. 
  • Don’t sign a power of attorney without discussing it with somebody you know and trust. 
  • Get all promises, as you understand them, in writing. 

In addition, Nessel’s Rental Listing Scam Consumer Alert explains methods scammers may use to promote a property that isn’t a legitimate listing to cheat a renter out of money.

  • Hijacked Ads – Some scammers copy listings from a legitimate real estate listing and will place it on a different website. It looks legitimate, but in reality, the scammer is promoting a property they’re not affiliated with.   
  • Phantom Rentals – Other scammers may make up a listing to cheat an unsuspecting renter out of money. These will often offer to rent the property far cheaper than other listings in the area.  

“Never pay for a rental property without seeing it in person and meeting with the landlord,” Nessel said. “You should also search the listing online to ensure it wasn’t copied fraudulently. Do your homework and trust your instincts if something feels off about a listing even if it offers a big savings in your rent payment.” 

Landlords and renters alike can access more resources from the Attorney General here.

To file a consumer complaint, click here or call (877) 765-8388.

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