Consumer Alert: Avoiding rent, credit scams while finding real relief on Oahu

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Spots are still open for Honolulu’s Rent and Utility Program, and the extended eviction moratorium is good news for renters as well.

But as the rules change for getting assistance, scammers are switching gears to steal those relief dollars.

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“The challenge becomes scammers see this opportunity, they know that people need the money, so they know that emotions are now involved,” said Roseann Freitas, Hawaii Better Business Bureau (BBB) marketplace manager. “They know that people will be at a point of almost desperation on what to do and they’ll try to take advantage.”

The City’s Rent and Utility program is for households on Oahu that are struggling with their bills due to the pandemic. Eligible residents gan get financial help for their rent, water, electricity and gas bills, but the BBB said fake relief and programs for people impacted by the virus are spiking. The thing these scams all have in common is an upfront fee.

“If you get a phone call from someone who says they can assist you but you need to pay a fee, you need to stop. Because free money shouldn’t cost you anything.”

Roseann Freitas, Hawaii Better Business Bureau marketplace manager.

Those behind on rent know their credit score may take a hit, but the BBB says stay wary of quick credit repair services; they promise a quick turnaround of the user’s score as long as they pay an upfront fee. So do not ever be tempted by “guaranteed loans,” or impossible services like removing bankruptcies from a credit report.

“And it’s really tempting to see the companies online and go, ‘Oh, they can help me get rid of this,’ and they promise you things actually they can’t do,” Freitas said. “And the reality is, there isn’t anything they can’t do that you couldn’t actually do yourself for free.”

There are approved credit repair services, but the BBB said they take time.

To check out the Honolulu Rent and Utility program, head to oneoahu.org/renthelp.

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