Seniors with deeply held religious beliefs must be cautious of scammers using their own beliefs to exploit them, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cautioned on Friday.
Called it the “blessing scam,” the fraud is particularly prevalent in the Chinese community, Deputy District Attorney Ruth Low said in a video tagged with the D.A. Office’s Fraud Friday alert.
“In this scam, fraudsters working a group pretend to be strangers and attempt to befriend a victim on the street,” Low said. “It starts with one of the scammers asking personal questions to the victim while a second scammer, posing as a spiritual doctor or psychic, monitors the entire conversation from a distance.”
This scammer, masquerading as the spiritual advisor, will casually appear to use the information they have to further convince the victim with their “psychic” abilities.
“The psychic then persuades the victim that a terrible misfortune awaits a family member unless a blessing ceremony is performed,” Low said. “The scammer tells the victim that the only way to avoid this fate is by putting all their cash and valuables in a bag so that it can receive a blessing.”
A recent case reported that a senior placed more than $70,000 of cash and jewelry in a bag, which was then switched with a bag filled with pieces of newspaper. The senior was told not to open the bag, following the blessing, for another two days in order for the blessing to properly work.
Low offers the following tips to prevent becoming a scam victim:
- Speak with family members before agreeing to any spiritual help requiring valuable items or personal information;
- Leave immediately and call the police if approached by someone offering to bless items or warning of any impending doom;
- Avoid, if possible, traveling alone;
- And, be aware of strangers with an interest in a potential victim.
Those interested in more information can follow @LADAOffice on Twitter and Instagram for up-to-date news. The above information was shared with The Signal via a news release from the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office.