ALERT – Recently uncovered information indicates that a group of blessing scammers may be in our community. Please speak with your Chinese relatives about the risk.
Blessing Scams are a current concern in our community. Here’s what you need to know:
What is a Blessing Scam?
“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.
Who is being targeted?
The scammers have been targeting older, Chinese women who maintain a belief in traditional spirits and demons. Typically those targeted speak little to no English, and instead conduct much of their daily lives in Mandarin. They tend to be reluctant to report the frauds to police.
Has anyone here fallen victim to the scammers?
In September a Victoria woman was taken in by these fraudsters and lost more than $50,000 worth of cash and valuables.
Are the scammers local?
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.
A recent, second group operating a blessing scam was uncovered again in Vancouver. This group is the subject of our latest warning notification. All the suspects arrested in the first instance were from Mainland China.
What can I do?
Speak with your Chinese family and friends about the scam. Ask them if they have been contacted by anyone who matches the description. If they have, call (250) 995-7654. If they are actively interacting with the scammers, call 911.