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What you can do to prevent account takeovers

The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) is informing the public of a rise in account takeovers at credit unions in Hawaii. Just last week, thieves targeted account holders with home equity lines of credit (HELOC) at several local credit unions. The thieves managed to access accounts by email or phone and wired large sums of money to other states and countries. More than a dozen cases were reported last week. Some of the transactions were completed, while others were stopped in time. The investigations are ongoing and no arrests have been made so far.

What is an account takeover? It's when a thief poses as a bank customer to gain access to the victim's personal banking information, either online or over the phone. Once the thief has accessed the personal information, he/she can conduct unauthorized transactions and withdrawals to send money to accounts controlled by the thief and his/her associates.

What can I do? "The most important thing that a person can do is to monitor their bank account," said Lieutenant John McCarthy, head of the Criminal Investigation Division's Financial Crimes Detail. "Check your account frequently and pay close attention to your bank statements." Anyone who notices unauthorized debits from their account should contact their financial institution immediately. "The sooner you catch the [problem] the better," McCarthy said.