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New phone scam reported to Big Island police

Residents who receive calls that appear to be from Hawaii County are advised to be cautious after multiple reports of a phone scam.

Janet Snyder, Mayor Harry Kim’s spokeswoman, said two county staffers reported receiving calls from numbers that initially appeared to belong to county offices. But although caller ID displayed “County of Hawaii,” the unknown caller attempted to solicit personal information from the recipients, which Snyder said the county does not do.

Snyder said the calls were reported to the police, who said no other calls specifically impersonating the county have been reported.

“It’s weird because (the staffers) obviously knew the calls were fake,” Snyder said. One of the numbers, when called back, turned out to be a fax number.

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to determine whether similar calls are legitimate without answering the phone, Snyder said.

“Really, if you’re not expecting a call from the county, just don’t pick up,” she said. “And certainly hang up if they start asking for personal information.”

Fraudulent phone calls are a seemingly intractable problem around the country. Hawaii Police Department issued two notifications regarding similar scams within the past two months, one of which claimed to be soliciting funds for the police department. Because the department does not solicit funds from the public, any caller claiming to do so can safely be concluded to be illegitimate.

The other scam, reported in March, appeared more sinister.

A woman in Honokaa reportedly received a call claiming her grandson was jailed in New Jersey and required money for bail. The caller requested money for bail and apparently correctly named the caller’s actual grandson before stating an attorney would call her with more information.

About an hour later, the Honokaa woman received a second call, this time from a supposed attorney who provided more “details” about the grandson’s supposed situation: the grandson was in a drunk driving accident and required $7,500 in cash delivered by FedEx. The woman eventually did send the money, only to later call her grandson to learn he was never arrested.

Police advise residents to be cautious of unknown callers, particularly if they request cash only. Even stories that seem genuine can be faked because personal details such as names of family members can be gleaned from social media.

Email Michael Brestovansky at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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