KPD warns public to be aware of latest COVID-19 scams

Coronavirus

LĪHU‘E, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Kaua‘i Police Department is urging residents and businesses to be aware of the latest potential scams. The latest con involves leveraging the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to steal people’s identities and payment information.

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Scammers are stealing people’s identities and fraudulently filing for benefits. The scammers are then able to collect payments that are directly deposited into their bank accounts. 

Scammers are continuing to take advantage of the global COVID-19 pandemic and Hawaii’s economic state to steal money and personal information from vulnerable residents. KPD revealed the department has been receiving a rise in scamming reports with varying tactics. 

Police say one scam involved callers posing as representatives of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH). A scammer will call a place of business and threaten to cite the establishment for having a health code violation and request that the business send them money as a fine.  

“These people are called ‘money mules,’” said Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce. “They are often victims of scams themselves and have to repay their own bank the money that they sent away per other scammers’ directions, leaving them worse off.” 

Witnesses have even reported that one individual in particular, who was posing as an official calling businesses, had a heavy accent and asked questions the real DOH would never usually ask.

KPD is also urging the public to be mindful that scammers can reach out via email and social media in attempts to get personal information as well. Scamming tactics can include:

  • Posing as law enforcement and preying on people’s fears. 
  • Enticing victims with romance. 
  • Promising large payments of money. 
  • Suggesting computer repairs. A message will pop up on a victim’s computer screen to call a number and scammers will pose as a computer repair person and request payment. 

“More often than not, in these cases, victims never meet the scammers in person and most, if not all, tactics are via text or email. Some scammers will speak with the victims over the phone, but they will never meet in person,” said Ponce. “These scammers will also sometimes threaten that there are people on island who will visit the victims if they do not follow their directions.” 

Below are some helpful tips from Kauai Police to help avoid falling victim to scams:

  • Never give out personal information.   
  • Always vet the company that contacted you by doing your own research and calling the company for verification purposes. 
  • Be aware that law enforcement will never call and ask you for payment in lieu of having an arrest warrant issued in your name.   
  • Monitor your credit frequently. Check your bank, credit card and phone statements regularly. 
  • Do not answer or return calls from unknown numbers 
  • Be aware of suspicious payment methods. 
  • Use caution when responding to unsolicited calls, emails or unknown individuals on social networking sites. 
  • Help keep senior citizens safe as they are often targets for scam artists and tend to be more trusting of unknown individuals. 
  • Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

If you suspect a scam, call KPD at 241-1711. You can also leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers Kaua‘i at 246-8300.

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