More details on $276,000 condo association theft, plus how to protect your account

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A bank account was cleaned out of $276,000, and no one found out until it was too late.

We wanted to find out more about how something like this happens, and now we’re getting answers.

The association told homeowners that the money was transferred electronically from a Kukui Plaza Condo Association’s account at American Savings Bank. However it does not want to reveal too many details as to how it happened, because the incident is still under investigation.

During a board meeting Wednesday night, homeowners were told that the money was stolen in May. It was done in three separate transfers.

So why did it take six months to notify the homeowners? The building’s general manager told us the company wanted the investigation to run its course and gather as much information as possible before releasing the information.

The general manager says the association is still trying to figure out ways to get the money back from the bank. Either way, he says homeowners will not be charged a special assessment because of the theft.

A cybersecurity expert from the American Bankers Association says all it takes is one false click on your computer and you can easily become a victim of theft.

Doug Johnson, senior vice president, payments and cybersecurity policy, says thieves prey on business accounts regularly by sending an email enticing the victim to click on a link.

“It may be a business email saying to click here for an invoice for instance, or something that would not be unusual for the company to receive,” Johnson said.

Once you click on to that link, malicious software can take over the computer and is able to access the password and login to the bank account.

“The employee tries to get in the bank website. They got a screen that says ‘system down, please try again later,’ and what is happening in the background is now the criminals have access to the account,” said Johnson.

KHON2 asked Johnson what precautions businesses should take. He recommends:

  • Having dual authorization for all transactions, which means two people need to sign off each time money is moved from the account;
  • Having a computer that’s strictly for banking and no emails;
  • Keeping the anti-virus software updated; and
  • Monitoring the accounts daily and checking for anything unusual.

A real estate attorney says it’s good to have some notification when a transaction reaches a certain amount.

“Oftentimes there are amounts or limits that somebody can sign for yes without getting some special approval from the board or committee,” said Bart Howk from the firm Bays Lung Rose and Holma.

KHON2 also reached out to American Savings Bank to see what’s being done to try to recover the money. We’ve called and emailed for the past three days and there’s been no response.

In the meantime, homeowners were told new measures have been taken to prevent future theft.

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