Last Christmas Eve, authorities arrested two women on their way to Hong Kong as suspects for a scamming practice targeting elderly Chinese women. A few weeks ago, a third woman was arrested for alleged involvement with the blessing scam.
The scheme involved convincing elderly Chinese women that a healer could mend their physical ailments. Scammers would convince the women to bring valuables in a bag to a location for a blessing. A "healer" would put a blessing on the valuables and banish the ghost or spirit that was causing their ailments. During the "ritual" the scammers would switch the valuable bags with a ringer, tell the mark to leave without looking into the bag and keep the valuables.
The accused suspects carried out the scheme around the Bay area and have allegedly caused losses of an estimated $200,000.
Symptoms of a larger trend
This case is not the first instance of the blessing scam. According to the San Francisco Examiner, blessing scams have been an on-going problem for the area's Chinese community. The scams are also a problem in other metropolitan areas. Originating in Hong Kong, these kinds of scams may occur in any large area with large Chinese populations.
In recent years, both Los Angeles and San Francisco District Attorney offices have launched public-awareness campaigns to combat the potential for harm these scams cause the Chinese community.
Though this practice specifically targets elderly Chinese, leveraging their cultural beliefs to get what they want, it is exemplary of the ways in which elderly scam artists create schemes and make promises to prey on unsuspecting victims.