DETROIT — Public officials and leaders in Detroit are calling for policy changes and programs to protect residents from the “fake landlord” scam. 

A four-month investigation by NBC News and Outlier Media found that the scam — in which con artists rent or sell homes they don’t own — affects as many as 1 in 10 Detroit tenants facing eviction. But culprits rarely face consequences, in part because they often use fake names and IDs and because many victims don’t alert police, authorities say.

“These are folks that are blatantly in our face, targeting our residents and taking their money,” said U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat whose district includes Detroit, where she often sees flyers posted by people she believes are scammers offering to sell houses for cash.  

“The response needs to be with a sense of urgency,” she said. “People need to care about our residents that are getting victimized and targeted like this.”

The NBC News/Outlier Media investigation found that the scam has flourished in the wake of tens of thousands of mortgage and tax foreclosures that have left many Detroit homes vacant or in the hands of out-of-town investors. Foreclosures have destabilized the housing landscape in the city, making it difficult for residents to know who owns their homes. 

At the same time, discriminatory lending policies have made it difficult for Detroiters — most of whom are Black and live in neighborhoods with low property values — to secure…

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