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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 14, 2010

Bus scam shows how bad times are

By Lee Cataluna

You know times are hard when people are buying fake bus passes because they don't have money for real ones.

Lots of different people ride the bus for different reasons, but certainly, economy is near the top.

So if people are tempted to save some money by cutting back on how much they pay for their already economical transportation, that says a lot about what sorts of choices they have to make every day to survive.

Share one bottle of prescription pills. Raid the condiment stand at McDonalds for ketchup packets to make soup. Lift toilet paper rolls from public restrooms.

These are the sorts of things that happen when the economy is so bad it turns ordinarily honest people into thieves.

"Hey, the guy around the corner is selling $50 bus passes for $20! You want me to buy you three so your family can go to work?"

"Wow, 20 bucks? That's a good deal. Here, buy me one. I'll buy more when I get paid, but I cannot get paid yet because I didn't have the money for a bus pass so I couldn't go to work."

What kind of mind comes up with this scam? How rotten do you have to be to dream up a way to make money off people who are already hurting for money?

Maybe their defense is that they intend to help people, but sending some little grandpa on the bus with a bogus card that puts him at risk of being arrested, or worse, stuck without a ride in Kaka'ako, is not helping.

Clearly the situation is a big deal because Mayor Mufi Hannemann himself led the "watch out for fake bus passes" press conference and posed for photos comparing the real bus passes against the counterfeit ones. The resemblance is pretty good. Those poor bus drivers now have to eagle-eye every card they see like a beagle sniffing for fruit at the airport.

As for how to make fake passes, it's not major surgery like back in the Spats disco days when you could shave the raised-numeral year off your drivers' license birth date and Super Glue an earlier year to make you 18. These days, you don't even need a color printer. There are dozens of websites where you can order fake IDs. Seriously. Try search "fake IDS" on Google and see how many there are to choose from.

It's a crazy world when fake-card makers don't have to practice their razor-blade and Super Glue-with-tweezers technique anymore.

It's a crazy world when people are counterfeiting not $100 bills or gold Mastercards but bus passes.