The pair of women accused of using fake travelers checks to target more than 50 businesses on Oahu have accumulated quite a loot, according to police sources.
In March, the duo was caught on camera at dozens of stores. On March 3, they were seen at the Nimitz Local Stop and Deli in Kalihi.
Kumok Chang, the store's owner, says one woman bought a drink and a bag of Doritos, using a fake $100 travelers check to pay the $4.35 bill.
The second woman bought a drink and a bag of sunflower seeds -- a $2.61 purchase -- with a fraudulent check worth the same amount.
Chang was suspicious of the tender, examining it for several minutes. She hasn’t had to handle a travelers check in years, she says, and didn’t know exactly what to look for.
She believes the checks the women used were thicker than she remembered, and that they appeared to be void of some typical markings. But the women were nice, Chang says, and seemed trustworthy.
One of them said she was from California and showed a California driver’s license. The other used a Louisiana license.
Chang says she accepted the checks, not finding out until later that day, when she visited the bank, that she wasn’t the first to be taken by the duo. The teller told her others had brought in similar, counterfeit checks.
"They told me, 'Chang, you too, you too?'” she remembered.
Honolulu Police Department sources tell Hawaii News Now the duo ripped off nearly fifty establishments.
Gregory Dunn, of the Better Business Bureau, says that thieves sometimes take advantage of the fact that cashiers in certain neighborhoods don’t deal with tourists often, and therefore don’t frequently handle travelers checks.
“People are counterfeiting travelers checks using color printers, because people don’t see them that often,” Dunn says. “So it’s very easy to go to a cashier who doesn’t know what a travelers check really looks like.”
Dunn says there are identifiers to look for: Watermarks, foil holograms, and the two signatures on the check should match. He says if a cashier still isn’t sure, they shouldn't accept the check.
Chang, meanwhile, says she won’t take travelers checks again.
"I don't (want) to get hurt anymore," she said, noting that she works seven days a week, about twelve hours a day, just to get by.
The suspects' taking of nearly $200 from her was a huge blow to the bottom line.
It is unclear where the suspects currently are.
Tina Yamaki, from Retail Merchants of Hawaii, says these groups usually don't stick around for very long. She says they often hit and run, making it hard for police to catch up to them.
Yamaki says as soon as one group leaves, another arrives. And the scheme varies, from traveler's checks to stolen credit cards. She says Hawaii merchants need to be on guard.