Police in New York are warning people about a resurgence of a scam I first warned you about in the Scam of the day for May 21, 2012. This particular scam targets Chinese Americans and begins when the scammer who is also of Chinese heritage approaches elderly Chinese women on the streets and tell them that they are plagued by evil spirits and that the only way to get rid of the evil spirits is through a purification ceremony. They victims are told that they have to bring their cash and jewelry to the ceremony to purify their belongings and protect them from the evil spirits. The victims’ cash and jewelry is then put in a bag and when the victims are not looking the money and jewelry is taken out of the bag by the scammer. After the ceremony, the victims are told to take the bag home, but not to open the bag for a few days or the purification will not work. By the time the victims learn they have been swindled, the scammers are long gone. This particular scam has been preying upon the Asian communities in cities such as Boston, Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco in addition to New York. In San Francisco alone, police estimate that the scammers managed to steal more than 2 million dollars worth of cash and valuables from about sixty victims reporting the crime. This type of scam is also being reported in Haitian and Latino communities as fellow Haitians and Latinos prey upon people within their communities with similar scams.
We tend to trust people who are like us; people who have the same cultural heritage, race, religion or social group. Unfortunately, “people like us” can be swindlers who take advantage of our trust. This type of fraud is called affinity fraud. This was what happened to many of the Jewish victims of Bernie Madoff who preyed upon many victims using their shared religion as an inducement. Be extra careful when an investment or other offer is made to you by someone who shares an affinity with you. Check them out as you would anyone else before doing any business with them.