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Banking customers warned about rash of unauthorized account transfers


Police are warning Hawaii residents to keep close watch of their home equity lines of credit after about a dozen cases of unauthorized account transfers were reported in the past week.

“We’re seeing where the suspects are using the victim’s, or the customer’s, personal information, getting access to those accounts, and attempting to wire money to various bank accounts, generally outside the state of Hawaii,” Lt. John McCarthy, head of Honolulu’s financial crimes division, said Tuesday during a news conference.

“We wanted to remind people to keep up with your account information — monitor your accounts; don’t let it go by; don’t think it monitors itself; don’t rely on someone else to monitor your accounts; be sure that you’re watching it.”

McCarthy said victims of successful scammers have seen losses in the six-digit range.

“Account takeovers of this sort are normally very high end because (if) you look at the assets they’re targeting, it’s big assets, it’s worth their while,” he said.

Authorities are also alarmed by the frequency of cases, which have been reported throughout the state and not just in Honolulu.

“It’s a lot of cases in a relatively short time targeting this specific group” of home equity line of credit customers,” McCarthy said. “I don’t recall seeing it like this before … not where (there was) this many cases, this fast, targeting that type of group.”

Credit union accounts seem to be the main target, but McCarthy said other institutions have also reported incidents. 

“We all have a responsibility in this, be it the institution or the individuals,” he said. “The sooner you catch it, the better.”

Police have not yet been able to identify how many groups or individuals are responsible for the uptick in account takeovers, or how the level of customer information needed to request the transfers is being obtained or accessed.

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