In the twenty-first century most, if not all, business is conducted online. This is especially true for making rental properties available. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged the Credit Bureau Center, LLC and three individuals with posting phony rental properties and free credit reports to lure people to their credit monitoring sites, enrolling them in costly credit monitoring services.
Be on the lookout for this scam while apartment hunting on websites like Craigslist. Note that you may be dealing with a rental scam when the listed owner states the apartment is still available but that you will need a credit check before seeing it; then you are directed to the owner’s own website, which claim to offer you a free credit report.
The FTC reports that consumers who responded to these fake listings were promised property tours after they obtained a free credit report, which never happened. Instead, consumers were passively enrolled in a credit monitoring service with continuous monthly charges of $29.94 and never heard back from the purported property owner to arrange a tour.
The Federal Trade Commission Act, established in 1914, was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson and outlaws unfair methods of competition and unfair acts or practices that affect commerce.
The defendants in this case are known to have done business under the following names: MyScore LLC, eFreeScore.com, CreditUpdates.com, and FreeCreditNation.com. All of the defendants in this case have been charged with violating the FTC Act. The company and its owner, Michael Brown, have also been charged with violating the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Free Reports Rule, which requires that consumers be informed of their right to obtain free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228.
Protect yourself from this and other rental scams.
- Don’t wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee or first month’s rent. Wiring money is like sending cash – once you send it, you can’t get it back.
- Don’t pay before you sign a lease. Before paying, visit the apartment (or ask someone you trust to visit it).
- Get a truly free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 1-877-322-8228. Check your credit before applying to rent, so you can fix errors before a landlord sees them.
If you think you’ve been the victim of an online rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and to the FTC immediately.
If you are interested in learning more about the Credit Bureau Center’s Online Rental Scam, speak with a Community Resource Specialist: (408) 350-3200, option 1.