Santa Clarita residents are warned to be on the lookout for scams targeting seniors, such as the “blessing scam,” according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
LADA officials warned residents against a scam possibly targeting seniors in the Santa Clarita area, the “blessing scam”, wherein con artists take advantage of victim’s religious beliefs to extort money from them.
Two women were arrested on Christmas Eve at the Los Angeles International Airport on charges related to “blessing scams” in San Francisco. The women have since been transported back to San Francisco, according to officials.
A group of scammers will likely victimize an elderly person, who is promised a blessing or spiritual healing by putting valuable items and cash in a bag which is then secretly swapped for an empty bag.
According to a video from the Deputy District Attorney Ruth Low from the LADA Office, the scam is particularly prevalent in the Chinese community.
“In this scam, fraudsters working a group pretend to be strangers and attempt to befriend a victim on the street,” said Low. “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.”
From there the false spiritual adviser can casually encounter the victim and convince them of their ability.
“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.”
The bag is then switched with a replacement without the victim’s knowledge, and the victim is instructed not to open the bag for two days, after the scammers will be long gone.
The LADA’s Office offers a few tips to avoid falling prey to a “blessing scam”:
- Talk to family members before agreeing to any spiritual help which involves providing valuables or personal information
- If anyone approaches offering to bless items or warns of impending doom, leave immediately and call police
- Travel with someone whenever possible and keep a lookout for people unusually interested in getting to know.
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