East Hawaii News

State Officials Warn of ‘Government Imposter’ Scams

February 2, 2016, 1:16 PM HST
* Updated February 2, 1:09 PM
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Attorney General Douglas Chin. State of Hawai'i photo.

Attorney General Douglas Chin. State of Hawai’i photo.

The public is being warned about potential “government imposter” scams that have been recently reported.

Attorney General Doug Chin and Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection Stephen Levins say there have been two recent attempts by scammers to collect personal data from Hawai’i residents as they posed as representatives of state government.

One of the scams reportedly involved the Hawai’i Public Housing Authority’s Section 8 housing vouchers. Multiple complaints have been reported by individuals attempting to apply for the vouchers online, where a website asks for credit card and social security information.

On the “government imposter” website, it makes note of HPHA and acts as if a credit check will be conducted.

Attorney General Chin and DCP Director Levins say the website is not HPHA’s and is in no way affiliated with the authority.

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“The HPHA alerted the Attorney General, Honolulu Police Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development so that the State’s most vulnerable population does not fall victim to this type of scam,” said Hakin Ouansafi, Executive Director of the HPHA. “The HPHA never requires fees or credit checks to apply for any of its programs.  Potential applicants for Section 8 or public housing should be vigilant when asked to provide private information and should contact the HPHA directly at (808) 832-6040 if they have any concerns about websites, advertisements, postings, etc.”

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A second scam involves individuals receiving e-mails that claim a “membership certificate” and “official letter” from the Director of the Department of Budget and Finance.

In the e-mail, the recipient is asked to raise funds in order to allow them to “gain rights to certain benefit.”

Two attachments are included with the e-mail. They appear to have official-looking seals and claim to be sent by a representative of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in Washington, D.C.

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“If you receive a suspicious message that claims to be from a government agency, do not click on any links in the email or respond to the email or call with any personal or financial information,” said Attorney General Chin. “When in doubt, please report the suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

“The best way to guard against this kind of illegal conduct is to be very careful when you give out your personal information,” said Executive Director Levins. “Never provide it to someone who telephones or emails you out of the blue. And always remember, just because someone claims that they are from your bank or from a government agency doesn’t mean that they are.”

The Offices of the Attorney General and Consumer Protection issued the following tips on how to spot possible “government imposter” scams via e-mail, which could include:

  • Are poorly written;
  • Are sent from ‘.com’ email addresses rather than ‘.gov’ email addresses;
  • Say you have won a lottery or sweepstakes;
  • Say you owe a fake debt; or
  • Ask you to wire money right away, often to a foreign country.

For more information about how to recognize a government imposter and report such scams, visit the consumer protection information website of the Federal Trade Commission.

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