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June 19, 2011

Prosecutor Ramps Up Protection for Elders (HAWAII)

Financial fraud that targets senior citizens has increased, and officials detail scams
June 18, 2011

Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said Friday he is expanding his office's unit that handles crimes against older citizens in response to a doubling of reported crimes against elders since 2009.

The focus will be on financial scams that target seniors, he said.
"The most prevalent type of crime against the elderly is financial abuse,"Kaneshiro said at a news conference. "Thousands of dollars and property are stolen from the elderly, and these are people who have worked their entire lives to accumulate these savings."
The prosecutor's office reported that it handled 57 elder abuse cases in 2009, 102 cases in 2010 and 60 cases this year through May. Dave Koga, an executive assistant to Kaneshiro, said most of the cases involve financial fraud.
Kaneshiro said his office is bolstering its elder abuse justice unit, which was established in 2008. It increased the number of elder abuse attorneys this year to four from two and is adding two investigators to the unit.

The Honolulu Police Department took a similar step in February by launching a scam awareness program called S.C.A.M. ("Stop Criminals from Acquiring your Money").
The effort uses brochures and bus placards to highlight common scams and how to avoid them.
"We are hearing that strangers are befriending seniors, even driving them to the store or on other errands to gain their victim's trust and access to their financial information," Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha said at the news conference. "Always be cautious of strangers offering unsolicited help."
He encouraged people who think they are victims of a scam to report it to the Police Department.
Kealoha said a recent case involved two men who posed as undercover police officers and stopped an elderly man for jaywalking.
"They demanded money from the victim, who unfortunately gave the men a large amount of cash," Kealoha said. "We want the public to know that police officers never, under any circumstances, ask for or collect money. If this happens call 911 immediately."

Dwight Kealoha, chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii, said a common scam the bureau has received multiple calls about is door-to-door sales for bogus security alarm systems.
AARP Hawaii said debt collection scam is the top fraud complaint it receives. Scammers posing as debt collectors incessantly call consumers to pay off a debt that they most likely do not owe.
Jackie Boland, associate state director of AARP Hawaii, emphasized that scams are not limited to seniors.

"People just can't keep up with all the creative ways scammers come up with to part people from their money," she said.



SOURCE:    The Star Advertiser
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