Self Help for the Elderly
News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2016
CONTACT: MARISA RODRIGUEZ (415) 553-1323
MAX SZABO (415) 553-9089
DA GASCÓN, SAFE, SELF HELP FOR THE ELDERLY HOLD A FREE COMMUNITY BLESSING SCAM PREVENTION EVENT
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, in light of recent blessing scam incidents, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón along with SAFE and Self Help for the Elderly held a public awareness and prevention event in the Sunset District. The event is designed to educate the Chinese elderly community about the recent blessing scam incidents that have occurred in San Francisco and all over the country.
“Targeted public awareness campaigns are the best way to prevent these scammers from victimizing our seniors.” said District Attorney George Gascón. “After a successful campaign for nearly three years, it hurts me to learn about the latest incidents. With the help of the media, banking institutions, temples, family, friends and community members, we hope to continue to engage our seniors in dialogue around these issues and keep them safe.”
The event was held for community members to learn about how to avoid being victims of blessing scams. Attendees received educational materials, free giveaways such as reusable shopping bags with helpful information printed on them, and watched an instructional video on how to identify and protect themselves from being scammed.
While San Francisco became the only jurisdiction in the country to secure blessing scam convictions against eight defendants, blessing scams are on the rise again. With one incident in July and three earlier this month, elderly victims were swindled out of over $150,000 in cash and jewelry. Sometimes called the “ghost scam” or “jewelry scam,” scammers are targeting middle-aged to elderly Chinese women who are walking alone in busy shopping areas.
Scammers, who are also Chinese, travel in teams of three but approach potential victims separately so they can strategically corner their target. Often times, the scam plays out as follows: one scammer will approach the victim and ask her if she knows of a particular doctor. Another scammer posing as a relative of the doctor will tell the victim that a ghost followed her home and now someone in her family is in danger. The third scammer will tell the victim that the only way to protect her family member is to perform a “blessing ritual.” The woman is instructed to put cash and jewelry in a bag and meet the scammers at a designated location. The scammers pretend to perform a blessing, but switch the bags while the woman isn’t looking. The woman is instructed not to open the bag for a period of time not knowing her cash and jewelry are gone. (awk)
The public education campaign is part of the San Francisco District Attorney’s ongoing work to prevent blessing scamsfrom harming San Francisco residents and to prevent and prosecute crimes against seniors.