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StarBulletin.com

Woman, 80, loses $1,200 to scammers


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POSTED: Saturday, March 28, 2009

Four women used a phony friendship with a woman's dead son as a conversation starter to get into her Palolo home Tuesday and steal her purse, which contained more than $1,200 in cash.

“;They entered into my home to steal, pretending they are friends of my son who died, and that's the horrible thing,”; said the woman, who only gave her first name, Mae.

Mae told her story to the Star-Bulletin because she hopes it prevents others from being victimized like her.

“;I don't want another person to go through what I went through. I don't know what to call these wicked, wicked people,”; she said.

The 80-year-old Palolo resident said the thieves approached her at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and asked how she is doing without her son.

They asked to use her bathroom, then distracted her and took her purse. About an hour passed before Mae realized she was swindled.

Honolulu police Detective Andre Peters said the scheme has become more common in East Oahu but has not reached an alarming rate.

Peters, of the burglary and theft detail in Kaimuki and Palolo, said he has seen about four of these scams in about four months in Palolo. The swindlers usually target senior citizens because they are less suspicious and more trusting than younger residents, he said.

Usually one person will approach a resident who is outside and distract them while another person enters the home. Other times, thieves talk their way into a home by asking to use the bathroom or offering services.

“;They'll use whatever they can,”; he said. “;It can be anything like cleaning their home or doing some yardwork.”;

“;It doesn't matter the frequency of it, the citizens should always be concerned any time anyone asks to enter the home,”; he said. “;It's a safety matter, and they should always call 911 if they feel it's suspicious.”;

Mae, whose 40-year-old son died of cancer last year, was working in her garden when the women drove up in a blue car.

Two of the women had visited about four months earlier, trying to sell her termite service. At the time, Mae told them no, but they said they knew her son.

They returned on Tuesday with two more women and said they were checking up on her.

One of the women, who said she was pregnant, asked to use Mae's bathroom. Mae let her in but the two other women followed. The fourth woman stayed in the car.

Once inside, the women distracted Mae with rapid-fire questions.

“;It was so fast,”; she said. “;What they do is they don't let you focus on them. I think they're professional.

“;They don't let you think,”; she said. “;There's three against me. Never suspect anybody can be so wicked.”;

Mae now doubts the women knew her son.