Two women have been defrauded of nearly $100,000 by a team of con artists pretending to be psychics who said they could remove a curse from the victims.
Police say they are currently reviewing surveillance footage in hopes of identifying the three women they say are targeting older women in Toronto’s Chinese community.
"They’re approaching women who speak Cantonese … on the street between the ages of 56 and 70 years, and they would say that ‘I’m a psychic and I believe that your family will be in harm soon,'" Toronto police Const. Tony Vella said Wednesday.
After frightening the women, police say, the fraudsters would tell them to gather cash and other valuables and bring them to a meeting place in Chinatown where they would put the goods in a bag and then perform a "blessing."
"The suspects would switch that bag, and the suspects would tell them don’t open this bag until you get home," Vella said. "When they got home the victims … realized there was nothing in that bag. All their valuables, cash and jewelry were stolen by the three women."
Police are going over security videos around the College Street-Spadina Avenue area in a bid to identify the three, all said to be Chinese between 30 and 60 years of age.
Donald Chen, who runs Toronto’s Chinese Cultural Association, says their culture makes them targets for this sort of fraud.
"You have to know their cultural background," Chen said. "They believe in ghosts; they believe in ancestors; they believe when people die their ghosts live and they would come back and demand or give you advice, or that something bad is going to happen."
This scam is similar to one police investigated last week, when a man who advertised in a local Latino newspaper claiming to be a healer allegedly defrauded a woman of $14,000.