SCARS™ Scam Warning: Chinese Blessing Scams 騙局警告：中國祝福騙局
The Blessing Scam Is Also Called The “Ghost Scam” Or “Jewelry Scam
The blessing scam (also known as the “Ghost Scam” or “Jewelry Scam”) is a confidence trick typically perpetrated against elderly women of Chinese origin.
The scam originated in China and Hong Kong and victims have fallen for it worldwide including in Chinatowns and overseas Chinese communities.
The object of the scam is to persuade the victim to put valuables into a bag, which the perpetrator then secretly swaps for a different bag, enabling them to take the valuables.
CHINESE BLESSING SCAMS
Operation of the Scam / 騙局的運作
The scam typically requires three people.
One approaches the victim and casually begins a conversation, introducing the topic of a certain healer, herbalist, traditional doctor or psychic. The second con artist, a shill, appears to coincidentally overhear the conversation and states that they know of and have been helped by the healer in — for example, that the healer cured their broken hand or healed their mother after a stroke. This provides social proof, lending credibility to the first con artist’s depiction of the healer’s powers.
一個人接近受害者，隨隨便便開始對話，介紹某種治療師，中醫師，傳統醫生或通靈師的話題。 第二位騙子，是一個騙子，似乎是偶然聽到了談話，並說他們知道治療者並得到了治療者的幫助-例如，治療者中風後治癒了他們受傷的手或治癒了母親。 這提供了社會證據，為第一位騙子對治療者力量的描繪提供了可信度。
The two then persuade the victim to visit the healer.
In some variants, they happen upon a relative of the healer who also is purported to have special powers; in others, they meet the healer himself. The healer then states that a ghost or spirit is following the victim and that a family member is in danger or some other ill is about to befall her. The healer offers to perform a blessing ritual to get rid of the evil spirits or ghosts.
The Blessing Ceremony requires the victim to put valuables in the bag, reflecting the common religious theme of needing to provide something of value in order to gain blessings. The victim is encouraged to put as much valuable content in the bag as possible. A prayer is then said over the bag containing the valuables, and the victim is reassured that the ghost has been banished, but that to preserve the effect they should not open the bag for some long amount of time.
Unknown to the target of the scam, the bag containing the valuables was swapped during the ceremony for an identical bag containing valueless objects — newspaper instead of cash, for example. When the target opens the bag a month later, she realizes that she has been scammed out of all her money.
Communities Targeted / 目標社區
Overseas Chinese elderly women are believed to be targeted for several reasons :
- Non-reliance on banks – They are likely to have large amounts of cash in their homes rather than in savings accounts.
- Social isolation – They often do not speak English, and so are more willing to talk to a stranger who approaches them speaking their own language.
- Spiritual beliefs – In the religious traditions prevalent in these communities, it is believable that a healer would be able to spot bad energy and use a ceremony to remove it.
- Shame culture – When they are scammed out of their life savings, they are less likely to go to the police or warn their communities because they are ashamed of having been fooled.
- Filial piety – There is a strong sense of duty as a parent to protect their family from harm.
These scams have been reported in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, England, Turkey, Scotland, Australia, and of course in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
One source states that the suspects in one case had also traveled to Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Cambodia. Over the course of a year, reported cases of the scam have cost San Franciscans alone over $1.5 million (but since victims almost never come forward and report these crimes, this estimate could be only 5% of the total.)
Law Enforcement Response / 執法回應
San Francisco issued a public safety alert which, along with media publicity, led a victim to recognize the scam and go to the police. The prosecution was controversial because the scammers claimed they were being forced by organized crime bosses to operate the scam, or their relatives would be harmed.
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