There’s something strange in this neighborhood.
Two men and three women, all Chinese nationals, have been charged with attempted grand larceny after trying to scam thousands of dollars from an elderly Chinese woman by claiming that they could chase away the “evil spirits” that plagued her.
According to a statement issued by the Manhattan District Attorneys’s office, the scam is fairly common in California and on parts of the East Coast, and is known as the “Evil Spirit” or “Chinese Blessing” scam.
Typically, the perpetrators of the scam work in groups, the DA’s Office explained. One person approaches the target on the street, usually an elderly Chinese woman, and talks to her about finding a doctor. A second person casually approaches, vouching for that same doctor, while a third member of the group joins in, claiming to be a relative of that very same doctor. Together, the three convince the victim that she is cursed by “evil spirits” which will harm her or her family unless she puts her money and valuables into a bag to be “cleansed” by the “doctor.”
It all sounds awfully complicated. Does “Nigerian prince” not cut it anymore?
When the group approached a savvy 67-year-old woman on Elizabeth Street earlier this month, she got wise to the scheme and alerted the authorities. She returned to the group with a bag full of fake money and valuables, as members of the group mimed a “cleansing ritual” and tried to discretely whisk away the bag. All five perps were promptly arrested.
District Attorney Vance has warned that many of these schemes follow the same pattern, so members of immigrant communities should be skeptical of being approached by strangers with similar claims.
“Victims in immigrant and other communities may be particularly reluctant to report fraud because of a lack of familiarity with the English language and the criminal justice system, an embarrassment at having been defrauded, or even a fear of karmic or spiritual retribution,” DA Vance said in his statement. “I commend the victim in this case for coming forward and helping police apprehend the defendants.”
Props to this woman for not being afraid a no ghost.