Pamela RothVictoria News
Victoria police are trying to determine whether a scam targeting local elderly Chinese members has ties with a similar scam that occurred in the Lower Mainland this summer.
Police chief Frank Elsner recently made an appeal to Victoria’s Chinese community following an investigation into the “blessing scam,” which bilked a local resident out of more than $50,000.
Police describe the scam as an elaborate fraud designed to prey on elderly Chinese members of the community who maintain strong traditional cultural beliefs. Fraudsters approach victims on the street and convince them that an evil spirit is following them and will harm members of their family unless a blessing ceremony is performed.
The ceremony requires the victim to place all of their money and valuables into a bag to be blessed. The bag is then given back to the victim, and they are instructed not to open it for several days or tell any family members, otherwise the blessing will not work and the evil spirit will return.
When the bag is finally opened, the valuables are no longer inside and the suspects are long gone.
Since fraud victims are often reluctant to come forward, police are making a special public appeal.
“These criminals have specifically targeted vulnerable members of one segment of our Asian community – Chinese elders,” said Elsner.
“We need to know if you have been contacted by someone who tried to ensnare you in this fraud.”
In Vancouver, three women from mainland China were recently taken into custody following an extensive fraud investigation that extended across Canada.
Police have since tied the women to several frauds such as the blessing scam. Similar scams were also reported in 2013, prompting police to issue public warnings and arrest several people.
In connection with those arrests, at least four victims have come forward, each reporting losing $10,000 to $20,000 in money and jewellery.
Hailan Lu, 53, Meizhan Pan, 57, and 61-year-old Rong Lin have been charged with extortion and fraud.
Anyone who has fallen victim to the scam in Victoria or knows a victim is asked to call 250-995-7309.