The police department in New York City are searching for five women who they believe are linked to con artists who have been preying on elderly Asian women in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan these past few months. According to local authorities, the women tricked these victims into handing over thousands of dollars by telling them that their money was “cursed”.
This trick has been going around in one form or another for years and it is commonly known as the “Cursed Money Scam”. New York Daily News reports that it has successfully scammed about five women of Asian decent in their fifties and sixties out of almost $470,000 in those three New York areas.
It is a complex scam that more often than not consists of three people playing on one unknowing victim. First, the first of three scammers approaches the victim and begins what seems to be an innocent and friendly conversation in the victims’ own language, one that eventually leads to the introduction of the topic healers and psychics once they have gotten friendly together. Then the second con artist approaches the conversing women in a manner that appears coincidental, pretending to have overheard their conversation and commences to agree with the first scammer’s statement. They usually add that they know the healer/psychic and have been personally helped by them before.
Once they have the victim hooked, they then persuade her to pay a visit to the specified psychic and once there, the fraudulent psychic lies to them and tells them that she has a curse on her and that unless a blessing ritual is performed, something dangerous will happen to her or her family. They tell the victim that in order to banish this curse, the victim must place all of her money and jewelry into a bag and give it over to the ‘healer’ so that she can perform a ritual blessing on it. Before the bag is returned to the victim, the fraudulent psychic replaces the valuables with water bottles.
One 55-year-old victim fell for the scam and handed the con artists $280,000 in cash plus jewelry outside of a restaurant Little Italy on Grand St in April of this year. A mere week after that, another woman, 61, was conned out of $130,000 in cash in Bath Beach at an apartment building.
On May of this year, an elderly Asian woman met the healer in Queens at Bowne St and Franklin Avenue and was scammed out of $20,000 and last month in Manhattan a 69-year-old woman was conned out of cash and jewelry that added up to also about $20,000.
The latest known victim is a woman, 54, who got tricked into giving the fake psychic about $3,000 worth of jewelry and $19,000 in cash on June 22nd at Borough Park.
It is believed that these women are specifically targeting Chinese senior citizens for the following reasons:
- The fact that Asian elderly women are less likely to keep their money in banks and instead hold on to it at home.
- The fact that they are more likely to talk to someone who speaks their same language since they are less likely to speak English.
- They are more likely to believe in superstition.
- Because of their culture, they are less likely to talk about what happened to them after being scammed out of shame.
- Due to their strong sense of familial devotion, elderly Asian women are more likely to believe a fake psychic who tells them their family is in danger.
The Cursed Money Scam originally developed in Hong Kong and China but is now becoming more rampant in overseas Chinese communities and Chinatowns such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, and England.
Though they have yet to be caught, police have released photos of five Asian women who are currently wanted in order to “assist with inquiries” about the case.
If you or anyone you know has any reliable information concerning these women, please call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS to assist the authorities.