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Earlier this week Hawaiian Electric issued a warning that there’ve been people posing as HECO workers, trying to get money out of local businesses.
On Saturday, KHON2 learned quite a few businesses in Chinatown have been targeted.
Elsie Ching of Hifumi Restaurant in the Chinese Cultural Plaza remembers the call she got.
“They said, ‘Oh, we’re the electric company. I’m in the department to charge to disconnect, cut down your service,'” Ching said.
She panicked and the caller offered to help.
“Now maybe you have some money? We’ll ask our supervisor now. You can pay some money first and later on tomorrow, you can go to the electric company again to pay the rest,” the caller told Ching.
KHON2 learned about Elsie’s story while following around the President of the Chinatown Business and Community Association Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock.
“Maybe we can minimize the number of victims,” Shubert-Kwock said.
Shubert-Kwock passed out fliers on Saturday to businesses in Chinatown.
“I guess there were a few that got hit and I heard this morning that one of our seafood places got hit to the tune of $6,500 plus because the imposter came to the shop with the bill and they paid it,” Shubert-Kwock said.
But luckily, Elsie caught on before she handed over the money.
At first she thought the call was legit.
“I said, ‘How can I trust you?’ ‘You can see, oh you see the number, we saw the caller ID is electric company.’ Exactly.”
HECO says that’s been consistent, along with the caller telling the potential victim he or she must pay using MoneyPak.
Ching described the conversation, “‘Oh, we try to help you. So you hurry up, I give you about 30-45 minutes to go to buy the MoneyPak.’ I rushed, rushed, rushed go Longs, Pali Highway Longs.”
But just then, the lightbulb went on in her head.
“So, I look at the bill and call the phone and ask the electric company, ‘what’s going on?’ They said, ‘no, no, no, don’t pay them,” Ching recalled.
A mistake that would’ve cost Ching a lot of money and she’s relieved she caught on before it was too late.
Ching is just one of dozens of people who received a call from someone posing as a HECO worker.
HECO customers on the Big Island and Maui Electric customers also have gotten calls.
HECO wants to remind people, it never accepts MoneyPak as a form of payment.