Maui wildfire survivors warned against rental scams

December 13, 2023

Maui wildfire victims targeted by online rental scams

The community of Maui is currently facing a surge in online rental scams, particularly targeting wildfire survivors.

These scams, predominantly found in online classified ads, offer seemingly legitimate rental units at attractive prices.

However, these offers turn out to be fraudulent, leaving victims without a home and financially exploited.

How the scams operate

Scammers are exploiting the desperation and urgency of those affected by the Maui wildfires.

They post ads for rental properties, complete with pictures and details, luring in those in need of housing.

When potential renters show interest, they are asked to meet at a local business and are persuaded to pay a security deposit in cash.

In return, they receive an official-looking lease agreement which ultimately proves to be counterfeit.

The scammer, posing as the landlord, disappears with the money, leaving the renter both homeless and out of pocket.

Authorities urge caution and reporting

The Maui Police Department and the Hawaiʻi Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs are urging the public to be vigilant against such scams.

They advise against paying for rentals in cash or digital currencies and suggest consulting with FEMA and the American Red Cross for verified assistance.

Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of such a scam is encouraged to report it to the Maui Police Department at 808-244-6400 or file a fraud complaint with the Hawaiʻi Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ hotline at 808-587-4272, Option 7.

Protecting yourself from fraud

In addition to being cautious about too-good-to-be-true rental offers, individuals are encouraged to verify the authenticity of landlords and rental agreements.

FEMA’s Fraud Investigations and Inspections Division also provides a platform for reporting fraud related to disaster assistance.

They can be contacted at FEMA-OCSO-Tipline@fema.dhs.gov or by calling 866-223-0814.

FSJA Comment

The recent surge in rental scams targeting Maui wildfire survivors is a concerning trend that highlights the vulnerability of disaster victims.

This situation underscores the importance of community awareness and the role of local authorities in providing accurate information and support.

It also reminds us of the need for comprehensive disaster response plans that include measures to protect victims from such exploitative practices.

As communities rally to support those affected by the wildfires, it is crucial to remain vigilant against scams and to report any suspicious activities to the authorities.

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