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FBI agent shares how to be on the lookout for fraud and cybercrime

Pixabay Commons
Pixabay Commons

Dr. Rudolph Puana’s fraud conviction this week shines a light on the investigative work of the FBI, but the agency says it’s still got plenty of work to do.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill says his office continues to educate public and private sectors to be on the lookout for fraud and cybercrimes.

Merrill says his office collects data from all 50 states, and it’s shocking to see the rise in the amount of loss and number of victims from 2020 to 2021.

He shared a few simple fixes with HPR to avoid becoming a victim.

"The most simple mantra is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, you know, whether it be turning off your devices, or just asking for another means of communication," Merrill said. "If you're communicating to someone, with someone on a social media app, for instance, have them call you or do a zoom call somewhere where you could see them, or most importantly, do something in person."

"If they're pushing you away, and this is what the criminals will do, you know, they'll claim to be overseas or in a position where they can't communicate, then that is a what we call a clue in the law enforcement world step away and move on. Because in all likelihood, that's probably just a scammer," he told HPR.

Merrill says the FBI’s hope is that it can prevent fraud before it happens by educating the public on how to protect themselves.

Update 4/22/2022: the Internet Crimes Complaint Center's phone number is 808-566-4300. It had been incorrectly reported as 808-536-4300 in an earlier version of this story.

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 21, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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