An old Chinese “blessing scam” has reemerged in recent months. Law enforcement in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles have issued warnings to the Chinese communities.
What is the Blessing Scam?
In this type of scam, a scammer tells their victim that a family member is cursed “and that only a very specific blessing will end the curse.” Generally, these scammers target older Chinese women – “who are culturally predisposed to be easier marks because of their reverence for family and mistrust for banks.”
According to San Francisco Police, “one victim lost over $40,000” after being approached by three Cantonese-speaking scammers.
The first suspect asked the victim if they knew any doctors because a family member was “ill.” Then the second suspect said they knew a doctor and persuaded the victim to all visit the doctor together. On the way, the third suspect joined in – posing as a fortune teller. The third suspect told the victim she will “mistakenly step in the blood of another person” thereby cursing a loved one. The only way to uplift the curse, the scammers tell her, is to bring this “fortune teller” valuables so she can be “blessed.”
Motivated by fear, this victim brought a bag of valuables “consisting of currency and jewelry” to the suspects at a nearby street. The scammers performed a phony “blessing” and gave the victim back a bag of junk.
In another recent incident, this one taking place in New York, a woman named Xuekun Su, 44, was indicted on hate crime charges for convincing two separate women their families would be cursed if they didn’t “place cash and jewels in a bag to be blessed.” She scammed them out of a combined $160,000 and is now facing up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.
Why The Blessing Scam Is a Hate Crime
As defined by the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
In New York City, perpetrators of the blessing scam will likely be charged with a hate crime statute, according to a Brooklyn District Attorney. If convicted, the punishment for a hate crime increases.
While hate crimes can encompass many different types of acts, simply using racial or ethnic bias as the center of a criminal motivation, as the blessing scam that has targeted Chinese communities has done, can qualify. For a better understanding of the laws related to hate crimes, read Crime Prevention: Putting a Stop to Hate Crime from the New York State Police.
While the blessing scam has targeted Chinese-American communities, we can all learn from these tactics and see how con artists can easily use our own religion, cultural norms and traditions against us.
There’s nothing like word of mouth. By sharing your understanding of these types of scams with friends, family and co-workers, you can help prevent them from occurring.