CRIME ALERT: HPD warns homeowners of new scam - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

CRIME ALERT: HPD warns homeowners of new scam

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In just a week, Honolulu Police say hundreds of thousands of dollars have been stolen from homeowners through a line of credit account or HELOC.

It's a new scam, one HPD Lt. John McCarthy says, is difficult to solve.

"It's not like a bank robbery," says McCarthy.   "A big problem is the anonymity this type of crime affords the suspect."

Here's how it works.  The thief steals the identity of a homeowner with an existing HELOC, calling or applying for access to the money.   The money is then sent to another account which the thief uses.

There have been about a dozen cases in the last week.   No one bank or credit union is being targeted, but the majority of the cases are from credit unions.

"HELOC lines are much larger than credit card limits," says Edward Pei of the Hawaii Bankers Association.  He's not surprised scam artists have found a way to tap into the lines.

He says financial institutions were put on alert after the first few cases were linked and that helped stop more scams from going through.  Pei says most banks will call the homeowner to double check the HELOC request and most require the customer to show up in person, which helps verify identity.

But Lt. McCarthy says customers need to do their part to protect themselves.  "Keep up with your account information, don't think it monitors itself," he says.  "The sooner you catch it, the better."

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