New York City police department are on the hunt for five women who are believed to be linked to con artists who victimize elderly Asian women in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn in recent months. The victims were reportedly tricked into handing over thousands of dollars after being told their money was “cursed,” according to local authorities.
The trick, popularly known as the “Cursed Money Scam,” has successfully siphoned almost a total of $470,000 off five Asian women in their 50’s and 60’s in the three NY boroughs, reported the New York Daily News.
The scam is an elaborate con that usually operates with three people playing on one victim. The first scammer approaches the victim and strikes a seemingly innocent conversation, which will later lead to an introduction of the topic of a traditional doctor or psychic. Con artist number two, a shill, comes in appearing to coincidentally overhear the conversation, and then validates the first woman’s statement, usually stating that they know of and have been helped by the healer/psychic before.
Once the victim is hooked, she is then persuaded to visit the said healer. The healer then gives a false warning that she has been cursed and some sort of danger might befall her or her family unless a blessing ritual is performed. To lift the hex, all of their money and jewelry must be put in a bag and then handed over to the women for a ritual blessing. The money and jewelry will then be replaced by water bottles before being returned to the victims.
A 55-year-old victim gave up $280,000 in cash plus jewelry outside a restaurant near Grand St. in Little Italy last April 18. Just a week after that, a 61-year old woman was also victimized out of her $130,000 cash at an apartment building in Bath Beach.
On May 10, an old woman at Bowne Street and Franklin Avenue in Queens was robbed off of $20,000, while on June 4th, a 69-year-old woman at 122 Delancey Street in Manhattan was victimized of jewelry and cash worth a total of $20,000.
The latest among the many other victims, was a 54-year-old woman, who got scammed into handing over $19,000 in cash and $3,000 in jewelry on June 22 at Borough Park.
Chinese elderly women have been the main targets of the swindlers for the following reasons:
- Non-reliance on banks. Having large amounts of cash in their homes.
- Non-speaker of English. They are more willing to talk to a stranger who speak their own language.
- Belief in superstition.
- Shame culture. After being scammed out of their life savings, they are less likely to let anyone know to avoid embarrassment.
- Filial piety. The sense of duty as a parent to protect their family will let them more susceptible to believe the fake psychic.
The Cursed Money Scam, which originated in China and Hong Kong has recently become widespread into Chinatowns and overseas Chinese communities in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, England, Turkey, Scotland and Australia.
While the police currently has no available information on how the crooks select their potential victims, they have released photos of five Asian women who are wanted to “assist with inquiries” into the case.
Anyone who may have reliable information is advised to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.