Crimes of opportunity on the rise statewide

Recent cases of people being swindled highlight the growing threat of scammers in our island communities.

KHON2 spoke with Maui’s police chief and top prosecutor who say they’re looking at ways to prevent people from falling victim and to prosecute those responsible.

Maui’s Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said his officers are dealing with a high number of financial crimes, especially those involving bogus phone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS, unlicensed contractor fraud, and identity theft.

“The folks that we are dealing with now is our elderly folks,” said the chief, “where contractors will come in (to their homes) and propose to do things for them and take their money and walk away.”

Faaumu said most of these types of crimes are ones of opportunity, where the suspect preys on an unsuspecting victim. It’s an increasing trend that’s being seen in police departments statewide like Honolulu, Kauai, and on the Big Island, where a spokesperson says he’s seen a 40 percent increase in the number of cases being reported compared to last year.

“We as a department needs to find ways not only to prevent but also to catch those folks,” Faaumu said.

Maui County Prosecutor John Kim said the one thing he’s looking for is for victims of these crimes to come forward.

“We had a case with a guy who was what they call a ‘gypsy roofer,’ and he went from house to house victimizing senior citizens,” Kim said. “In that case, there was at least two victims who did not want to prosecute, did not want to be embarrassed, but we had several others who did come forward and we were able to prosecute him successfully.”

If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, give us a call at 591-0222 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or send an email to actionline@khon2.com.

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