Date:   Sep 4, 2015

File #     15-35821

Victoria, BC – Chief Constable Frank Elsner is making a special appeal to local Chinese members of our community as VicPD Financial Crimes Section Detectives investigate a local occurrence of the “blessing scam” that cost a Victoria resident over $50,000.

“Blessing scams” are elaborate frauds are designed specifically to prey on elderly Chinese members of our community who maintain strong traditional cultural beliefs. Potential victims are approached on the street by members of the group committing the fraud, who convince these victims that an evil spirit is following them and will harm members of their families unless a blessing ceremony is performed to remove the evil spirit. The “ceremony” requires the victim to place all of her or his money and valuables in a bag to be blessed. The bag is then given back to the victim, and she or he is instructed not to open it for several days and to not tell family members or the blessing will not work and the demon or evil spirit will return. When the bag is finally opened, the valuables are no longer inside and the suspects are long gone. A Victoria woman was taken in by these fraudsters and lost more than $50,000 worth of cash and valuables.

The “blessing scam” received significant media coverage recently in Vancouver and the surrounding area after three women from mainland China were taken into custody after an extensive investigation that extended across Canada. Vancouver Police Department and other allied agencies have tied these three older Chinese women to several frauds of this type. While Vancouver Police Department’s investigation continues, VicPD investigators uncovered this local occurrence after a concerned family member of the victim came forward. VicPD investigators are exploring the possibility that the crimes which occurred on the lower Mainland and those here are related.

“We’re reaching out local Chinese members of our community to ask them to help us,” Chief Constable Frank Elsner said. “Firstly, we need to know if you have been contacted by someone who tried to ensnare you in this fraud. We’re also specifically asking the children and grandchildren of the older Chinese members of our community. Please, talk with your family members and ask if they have been contacted by, or fallen victim to these fraudsters. If they have, call us, right away.”

Often victims of fraud are reluctant to come forward and, in the past, Chinese members of our community have been reluctant to come forward when they are victims of crime. This fraud specifically targets those who hold traditional cultural beliefs and undermines victims’ confidence in coming forward to police.

“These criminals have specifically targeted vulnerable members of one segment of our Asian community – Chinese elders,” Chief Constable Frank Elsner said. “ VicPD is committed to identifying these fraudsters and bringing them to justice.”

If you, or someone you know has been contacted by “blessing scam” fraudsters, or have fallen prey to them, or if you have information about this “blessing scam”, please contact Financial Crimes Section Detective Sgt. Derek Tolmie at (250) 995-7309.