State warns residents about government impostor scams

Attorney General Doug Chin and Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection Stephen Levins are warning the public about two recent attempts by scammers to obtain personal data from Hawaii residents by posing as representatives of state government.

In one scam, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA) received multiple complaints from people trying to apply online for Section 8 housing vouchers. In so doing, applicants found themselves on a website that asked for credit card and social security number information.

The ‘government imposter’ site mentions the HPHA and seems to perform a credit check. The suspected website is not the HPHA’s and is in no way affiliated with the HPHA.

In another scam, people reported receiving emails that claim to include a “membership certificate” and “official letter” from the Director of the Department of Budget and Finance. This email asks the recipient to raise funds in order to allow them to “gain rights to certain benefit.”

The email includes two attachments with official-looking seals and claims to be sent by a representative of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in Washington, D.C. Copies of the government impostor scam letter and scam certificate are attached to this release.

Attorney General Chin said “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. When in doubt, please report the suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

According to Executive Director Levins, “the best way to guard against this kind of illegal conduct is to be very careful when you give out your personal information. 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.”

There are several ways to spot possible ‘government impostor’ scams. Among other things these scam emails typically involve messages that:

  • 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 impostor and report such scams, please visit the consumer protection information website of the Federal Trade Commission.

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