LIHU‘E — Since the start of the year, over $300,000 worth of collective debt across 13 cases has been scammed away, according to the Kaua‘i Police Department. And these are only the reported crimes.
A rising number of scams have targeted kupuna, many posing as law enforcement or reputable companies, seeking money or gift cards as payments. One hoax involves telling victims their Social Security number has been compromised, KPD reported Wednesday.
“This is particularly heartbreaking because our kupuna are often vulnerable to these crimes,” KPD Investigative Services Bureau Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce said in a press release.
“If you have an elderly loved one, please check in on them and make sure that they are aware of these scams, and that they don’t provide any kind of private information to unknown sources.”
KPD warned of scammers using email phishing, mail, text messages, social media and phone calls. This also extends to online purchases where victims are asked to send money via a wire transfer for goods.
“Many scams originate from a foreign country,” Ponce said. “And the trouble is that once the money leaves the United States, there is little possibility in recovering it or prosecuting the scammers. Scammers also use internet-based programs in order to disguise their phone numbers, which makes tracing them nearly impossible.”
Another scam involves a fictitious “lock” created on an individual’s computer that instructs the victim to call a number to fix the problem. From that point, the scammers ask for a one-time payment to resolve the problem, which can lead to the victim’s computer hacked and personal and confidential information stolen.
KPD suggests these tips to prevent being a victim of a scam:
• Do not answer calls, emails, or texts from numbers that you do not recognize;
• Vet the company and do an independent search for the specific company’s phone number to call them back and speak with a representative;
• Law enforcement will never call you and ask for money in lieu of being arrested;
• Be aware of payment methods. No legitimate company will ask for payments via reading gift cards numbers off of the back of the card;
• Never give out personal information.
If you suspect a scam, call KPD dispatch at 241-1711 or visit kauai.gov/police and file an official police report.
Additionally, if you believe you’ve been a victim of a scam or cybercrime, the FBI has an Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.