Hawaiʻi Police Department
Criminal Investigations Division
Captain Mitchell Kanehailua
Big Island police are warning the public about two mail scams.
The first scam was reported by a Hilo resident who received a letter claiming to be from Reader’s Digest.
The letter claims the recipient has won a lump sum payout of $500,000. A check for $3,000 is enclosed, along with a number to call for instructions. The letter contains many spelling and grammatical errors.
When police called the number, the person answering asked a number of personal financial questions. He then gave specific instructions on how to cash the check and send the money via Western Union. The person identified himself as “Mr. York” and spoke with a heavy foreign accent.
In the other mail scam, a Hilo resident received a letter from a purported insurance company about a recently deceased relative. The letter claimed that money was being held from an insurance policy belonging to the deceased. It asked that a Federal Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification (W9) form be filled out, along with a copy of the recipient’s driver’s license, and faxed to a number printed on the letter.
These letters are different variations of the same scam, all designed to attempt to get the recipient to cash the check and send the money back, or give out personal financial information. The checks are fraudulent, so the person who responds by cashing the check will suffer financial loss.
Police caution the public not to respond to suspicious letters especially any requesting personal or financial information. The public should also be aware that many of these scams originate from foreign countries, and recovery of stolen funds for victims of these scams is highly unlikely.