Scammers target tribal communities, refugees, those seeking affordable housing | State & Regional | #dating | #elderly | #seniors
“Scammers thrive on catastrophes and hardships,” explained Anthony Advincula with Ethnic Media Services. “Across Montana and the Mountain West, scammers prey on people struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.”
Scammers are particularly attracted to tribal, rural, low-income, immigrant and refugee communities, he said.
“Information is an effective antidote to scams that promote fake cures, bogus test sites, get-rich-quick schemes, business and government impostors, fake love affairs and more,” he said.
Hanna Tester, a housing network manager with NeighborWorks Montana, said high housing prices have caused a spike in scams.
“The lack of affordable housing options in cities has created urban refugees,” she said. “These are people that are leaving the cities for rural areas because they can’t find housing. There’s a crisis-level housing shortage in Montana.”
This, in turn, has created an opportunity for scammers to post fake cheap housing on Craigslist and other sites. People that are desperate for affordable housing often click the link. Many times, scammers will ask for money up front, and the purported housing never existed.
“This is the biggest housing scam we see,” she said.
Chuck Munson, an assistant attorney general at the Montana Department of Justice in its Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services, said 2019 was the busiest year on record for calls to his office. About half of the 6,100 calls that year were about scams and fraud. Then 2020 was still the third-busiest year on record, with an increase in calls for help about identity theft.