Vancouver police have issued a warning about a scam targeting Chinese seniors whose cultural and superstitious beliefs are being used against them.
Const. Brian Montague said that since last June, seven elderly Chinese women have been approached on the street and told they were being followed by a ghost or evil spirit and that one of their children would die.
Montague said that in each case, a group of Cantonese-speaking Asians convinced the seniors that for $20,000 in cash and valuables they'd be given a lucky jade bracelet or a bottle of blessed mystical water to remove the bad luck.
"The individuals that are committing these scams are preying upon their emotions and possibly their beliefs," he said Friday.
Most of the time, the suspects included three women but at least one case involved a man as well, Montague said.
People have been victimized in various parts of the city and the suspects have arranged for the seniors to meet them again a few hours later with their money and valuables, including jewelry.
Montague said that once the suspects receive the goods, they have the victims put them in a bag to be blessed and tell them not to check the contents for a specific period.
But when the bag is opened, the seniors are alarmed to learn that their valuables have been replaced with worthless items.
Police believe more people have been victimized but are too embarrassed to come forward.
"We encourage people to walk away and talk to a family member," Montague said.