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AG warns of scams to take advantage of pandemic relief

Michigan residents facing financial hardship during the pandemic may be eligible for continued rent and mortgage payment assistance, as well as deferred student loan payments, state Attorney General Dana Nessel advised.

Nessel also warned these relief programs may motivate bad actors to think of new ways to attempt to steal personal information and money.

“As this nation continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19 on just about every facet of life, it’s important that Michiganders are aware of federal programs available to them,” Nessel said. “With temporary halts on evictions for those eligible, mortgage payment forbearance and a continued pause on federal student loan payments, it’s important to remain on alert for scammers seeking to capitalize off of these opportunities. That is why my office wants to ensure that people remember they do not have to pay for these benefits. If you receive a call, email or text demanding that you provide personal information like your Social Security, bank account or credit card number, do not fall for it.”

The Federal Trade Commission recently provided information on updates or extensions to these federal relief programs —

— Renters: The temporary stop on evictions for certain renters now runs through March 31. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on who is eligible and the steps to take, at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-eviction-declaration.html.

— Homeowners: For those struggling to make federally backed mortgage payments because of the pandemic, payment forbearance may still be available, and the pause on foreclosures runs through at least March 31. The Federal Housing Finance Agency can assist in finding out if a mortgage is federally backed. Contact your mortgage servicer to find out what other help is available.

— Student loan borrowers: For those federal student loans that are covered, the U.S. Department of Education has automatically paused payments through Sept. 30.

Nessel offered tips to avoid becoming a scam victim —

— Beware of anyone who offers financial services or rental assistance for a fee — you do not have to pay to get these benefits;

— Don’t give out personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you, even if they claim to be a government official.

— If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The Michigan Department of Attorney General provides online consumer protection resources. A library of consumer alerts is available as well with a number of scam examples.

Consumer complaints can be filed online at the Attorney General’s website, https://www.michigan.gov/ag/, or by calling 877-765-8388.

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