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FBI warns about recovery, charity wildfire scams in Lahaina

LIHU‘E — A proliferation of bad actors attempting to take advantage of Maui wildfire victims prompted federal authorities to warn of a surge in fraudulent activities on the island.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Honolulu Field Office issued the warning to residents in hopes of stemming the flow of such activities that often follow in the aftermath of such events. At least 101 people have died as a result of wildfires on Maui last week.

“Regrettably, natural disasters create a fertile ground for opportunistic criminals to exploit those grappling with losses or driven by the desire to assist others — sometimes both,” said Steven Merrill, Special Agent in Charge at FBI Honolulu, in a statement on Monday. “Criminals capitalize on distraction and vulnerability.”

The warning noted that certain fraudsters might resort to door-to-door tactics, targeting Lahaina wildfire-affected residents directly. The FBI said fraudsters might impersonate federal agencies seeking personal data under the guise of aid processing.

The FBI also noted that authentic government personnel must carry and present official identification upon request, and asked that residents scrutinize IDs diligently and verify contact numbers.

The FBI highlighted another scam in which fraudsters offer to help victims secure government-provided temporary housing — if residents pay a small fee to reserve space or as a security deposit on a key.

Home and property owners were also advised to be wary of cash settlements, as well as offers of quick repair work.

“If your home or business was destroyed because of the Lahaina wildfires, be cautious if contacted by real estate firms offering easy-cash settlements for the transfer of land deeds,” the FBI said in its warning.

“Be wary of work
crews that show up unannounced, offering to do quick repair work. Contact your insurance company before hiring anyone, and make sure the company you hire is licensed and bonded. Be leery of companies that demand cash up-front for repairs or supplies.”

Scammers also prey on the generous by creating bogus charities or misrepresenting real charities.

“Pleas for money may come door-to-door, through emails and texts, on the phone, or even at grocery stores and other places with donation buckets,” the FBI said in its warning.

“In addition to lining their own pockets with your generous donations, scammers may also be after your personal and financial information.”

If a person believes they have been a victim of disaster-related fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or email at

People can also report suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint center at


Wyatt Haupt Jr., editor, can be reached at 808-245-0457 or
Source: The Garden Island

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