Isles high in
Internet fraud

Hawaii ranks second in the nation
for complaints, FBI says

By Rod Antone

Hawaii has the second-highest rate of Internet fraud complaints per capita in the nation, according to the latest FBI statistics.

The 2001 International Fraud Complaint Center report indicates that Hawaii has 8.9 complaints for every 100,000 residents, ranking second only to Washington, D.C., which has 9.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.

The recently released report is based on complaints received by the center between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2001, and applying it to 1999 census figures.

Hawaii also ranked 17th in the nation in the percentage of those committing Internet fraud within the state. According to the report, there were 2.82 Internet fraud perpetrators per 100,000 population. Nevada ranked No. 1 with 11.9 perpetrators per 100,000.

A Honolulu FBI spokesman attributed Hawaii's high ranking in Internet fraud complaints to several factors:

>> The state has a large elderly population which is more susceptible to scams.

>> Hawaii is so isolated that suspects may feel safer in running a scam on someone thousands of miles away.

>> Hawaii residents in general are more trusting, a trait that fraud perpetrators depend upon, the FBI spokesman said.

Internet fraud complaints include identity theft, auction fraud featuring online bidding, nondelivery of merchandise from online orders, and credit card and investment fraud.

There is also the "Nigerian letter" scam, which usually comes as an e-mail from a person claiming to be royalty or a foreign government official, asking for a person's help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. The e-mail asks for the recipient's bank account number. Law enforcement authorities strongly advise against giving out bank account and other personal information.

Honolulu police also say there is a correlation between Internet fraud and the state's high property crime rates.

Another report by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program ranked Hawaii as having the second-highest overall property crime rate in the nation in 2001.

"A stolen credit card often leads to someone setting up a fake account online," said CrimeStoppers Detective Letha DeCaires. "At least, that's what I'm seeing as far as complaints which come across my desk."

She continued: "There's mail being stolen from mailboxes, car break-ins, burglaries. ... Any time you have something like this, there is a potential for ID theft or fraud on the Internet."

DeCaires noted a recent case that could become an Internet fraud investigation. She said several families gave credit history information to a man they believed to be a real estate broker for a Hawaii Kai rental property.

According to investigators, the suspect represented himself as a licensed agent from two prominent local companies. However, checks showed neither company knows the man, and neither company is responsible for the vacant Kaumakani Street house the suspect was showing.

"The families involved have since canceled their credit cards and warned creditors ... but the danger is still there," she said.

DeCaires said the "real estate agent" identified himself as Jeff Lansford. He is described as in his 30s, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with a medium build, brown curly hair, an olive complexion and facial hair stubble. He was last seen wearing a black long-sleeved dress shirt, tan dress pants and driving a white 1993 Ford Explorer with license plate number EWE-468.

E-mail to City Desk


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