Over the years, we’ve covered the devastating effects of fake lotteries that have resulted in Hawai‘i seniors losing millions of dollars (even their homes); the distressed relative scam (more commonly referred to as the “Grandma Scam”); sweetheart swindles/sham marriages; and the actions of adult children and caregivers who have stolen not only the life savings of their parents and patients, but also the trust of someone that never believed a loved one would steal from them. People should also be made aware of the following lesser-known scams.

With internet sites such as Craigslist and Letgo, one needs to be careful of an item advertised as new and “still in its original packaging.” The seller will say the item (usually a television or other electronic device, like an iPad) has never been opened and was purchased recently. When you go to buy it, the seller doesn’t want you to inspect it because “it will lose value if the box is opened.” Therefore, one may pay for a sealed box that may contain nicely wrapped rocks inside.

Another crime that uses deceit is the “diversion burglary.” When a homeowner responds to a knock on the door, he or she will be greeted by a friendly stranger with a story of need. Maybe their child needs to use the restroom, their car broke down and they need to go inside and use the phone or they may claim to be a long-lost relative who has been searching for them. These scam artists simply want to make it into the home, distract the victim and commit theft.

The “missed doctor’s appointment” scam surfaced again in Hawai‘i last year. A pleasantsounding lady called the victims and related that either they missed a doctor’s appointment made for them by their doctor or that their adult child missed their appointment. While they have the victim on the phone, they will ask for personal information “needed to update their medical records”— but in reality, to steal their identity.

Seniors who drive need to be cautious of scams. A friendly stranger may say he saw some type of mechanical problem with the elder’s car that the scammer just so happens to know how to fix. After some phony fiddling under the hood, the stranger will demand payment for his time.

Con artists rely on seniors to be trusting, willing to provide information and not question a too-good-to-be-true deal.

Don’t be afraid to say “no.” It is not being rude—it’s for your own protection.


To report suspected elder abuse, contact the Elder Abuse
Unit at 808-768-7536 | ElderAbuse@honolulu.gov