The Seattle Housing Authority is warning the public of a phishing scam targeting applicants of its Section 8 voucher program.
This week, when SHA reopened the waiting list for the program for the first time since 2008, the floodgates opened. In the first few days, more than ten thousand people needing assistance registered to be in a lottery for 2,000 spots. Right away, the agency started getting reports of suspicious activity.
"On Tuesday morning we got a handful of calls from folks who had received emails that did not seem right to them," said Michelle Ackermann, spokesperson for the Seattle Housing Authority.
The SHA discovered someone had set up imposter websites that pop up when you search "Seattle Housing Authority" on any search engine. Applicants think they're applying for the Section 8 program, but what they're really doing is giving up their names, social security numbers and financial information.
"We have no idea how many people are going to these other sites, giving their personal and financial information," said Ackermann.
"Not only discouraging, but what do you do?" asked Elizabeth Bouldin, who was applying for housing assistance at the SHA office in Seattle.
Two of the phony websites are housing-voucher.org and housingvoucher.com. The photos, logos and presentation of the fake websites even look official.
The SHA contacted authorities, and reported the activity to search engines like Google. They've also put out a warning on their website. But with the high volumes of applications, they worry many have already become victims.
The SHA website for the Section 8 voucher program can be found at http://www.seattlehousing.org/waitlist/.
If you believe you have given your information to the wrong site, you can report it to Internet Crime Complaint center.
If you want to make sure the Seattle Housing Authority received your information, call the waitlist hotline at (206) 239-1674.