comscore Kokua Line: Is this mailer a scam? How about this phone call? | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Is this mailer a scam? How about this phone call?

Question: We received mail addressed “To the Resident of (our) Street.” The cover letter says our address was randomly selected by the U.S. Census Bureau to participate in the American Community Survey; that our response is required by U.S. law; if we are unable to complete the survey online, a paper questionnaire will be sent to us in a few weeks. Is this a legitimate survey by the U.S. Census Bureau?

Answer: Yes, the ACS is a legitimate survey conducted all year, every year, by the U.S. Census Bureau, that helps determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flows to the states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. You can verify that you received a genuine mailer by calling 1-800-354-7271. You can complete the survey at

Kokua Line has received similar questions from other readers this week, indicating that there’s been a wave of ACS notices — and that readers are wary. Nationwide, the ACS goes out to about 3.5 million households annually, according to the Census Bureau. Households are randomly selected and steps are taken to reduce the chance that a household will be contacted more than once every five years.

Q: A man called this morning saying that there was a problem with my Social Security number and my payments would stop unless I gave him some information to unfreeze the account. This is a scam, right? I hung up, but now I’m worried.

A: Yes, it’s a scam. You did the right thing. We’re getting tons of complaints about Social Security scams right now — impersonators purporting to investigate fraud, impersonators warning that an account will be frozen, impersonators purporting to be able to increase your benefits. These are all scams, according to the Social Security Administration, which says to hang up and report the call to the Office of the Inspector General, at

Q: The wife and I traveled to Las Vegas for a 5-night stay in April. We were subject to taking the COVID-19 testing with the Safe Travels Hawaii rules before returning to Honolulu. The cost of $90 each was included in the airfare and hotel room charges through Vacations Hawaii. Is the COVID-19 test reimbursable from HMSA?

A: No, the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) “does not cover diagnostic testing for COVID-19 for travel purposes, such as to avoid quarantines associated with business or leisure travel,” the health insurer says on its website, It devotes a section to information about the corona­virus, including about testing and treatment coverage, at

HMSA said it does cover “medically appropriate” COVID-19 testing, including of asymptomatic individuals, but the tests must be associated with health care.


Does the state of Hawaii not realize that by failing to exempt vaccinated trans-­Pacific travelers, it’s leaving more seats for unvaccinated people to fly in? I am a travel agent and I know what’s going on with my own clients. Vaccinated clients are upset about having to test, which the CDC says is unnecessary, so they are delaying their trips or booking elsewhere. Unvaccinated clients are booking now, because they have to test regardless. Wouldn’t Hawaii prefer vaccinated visitors? — Frustrated travel agent

(You are referring to Hawaii’s requirement that passengers arriving from outside the state quarantine for 10 days unless they obtain an approved, negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding their flight to Hawaii. The requirement applies even to passengers who are fully vaccinated, despite federal health authorities’ guidance to the contrary.)


Mahalo to all — to the teachers, faculty and staff, and most of all to the students — in the Class of 2021. No matter what high school they attended, it was not normal times. We old-timers recall our own happy high school days, especially senior year. I feel for these young people and wish them the best. — Retired teacher

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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