How To Identify Housing Scams

J-1 participants have used a variety of websites and Facebook groups to find housing. Many who post housing availability on these groups or sites are legitimate. However, scammers are also aware of these websites and groups. The following instructions can help you to see if a housing lead is legitimate or a scam. FIRST STEP, ask for the full name of the person you are communicating with, as well as the street address and town of the housing. You can look up the address to see if this person is the owner on the town assessors database. A town assessors database will give you the name of the owner, a picture of the house, and information about the housing.

Mid-Cape J-1 Housing Program, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Second Step

The Assessors Database

When you click on the town assessor’s database link, you should see something similar to this picture. This is the assessors database for Harwich. Enter the street number and street name in the appropriate sections. Then, click the search button.

Third Step

The Name of the Owner

After clicking search, you will see something similar to this. This is called a field card. It will give you the name of the owner, a picture or pictures of the property, and other important information. The current owner is usually found in the upper left-hand corner of the field card. If the name under current owner is not the same as the name of the person you are communicating with, you should ask this person why he or she is not listed as the owner of the property. If the person becomes angry, rude, or refuses to answer the question directly, stop communicating with this person. Look for other housing. He or she may be a scammer. If the person says they are renting the place, ask him or her if the landlord allows subletting. (Subletting – when the landlord allows people renting the property to rent out rooms to people not on the lease.) If the person does not seem to know what this means or if the person does not answer the question, look for other housing.


Fourth Step

Check Important Information

Next, find the section called description. If you see the words residential or mixed or the abbreviations R or M, this is a place where people can live. However, if you find commercial or C under description, people are not allowed to live there. Under capacity, you will find the number of stories, the number of bedrooms, the number of bathrooms, and the number of half baths. At this point, you should ask the person you are communication with how many other students will be in the home with you. Some US sponsors will not allow J-1 participants to stay in a home in which there are more than 8 people to one bathroom. Also, if you feel the number of students will be too crowded for the number of bedrooms, you should look for other housing. Under element, you will find information about the heating of the home. If you do not see anything next to heating/cooling and fuel source, find other housing. This housing possibly is what we call a summer cottage. Another words, it has no heat. It can get cold on Cape Cod at night in May, June, September, and October.


Where Do I Find the Assessor’s Database?

See below

Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth                        Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich,   Truro     Wellfleet,       Yarmouth