“Evil spirits” are the newest ammunition for scammers targeting senior citizens, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. announced on Friday.
The DA’s office spoke to more than 900 people at eight senior centers in Manhattan to teach them how to spot and avoid falling for the scam.
“Evil spirits” scams are common around the Lunar New Year celebrations, Vance’s office added.
“Senior citizens and immigrant communities remain particularly vulnerable to scams and fraud,” Vance said. “The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office remains a safe place to report a crime, regardless of your immigration status.”
Scammers typically work in groups and target older Chinese victims. The fraudsters convince a victim that he or she is cursed by evil spirits and then offer to “cleanse” the mark’s valuables, like cash or jewelry. While distracted, the victims don’t realize that the con artists replaced the bag of valuables with bags of trash.
Anyone who believes he or she has been the victim of such a swindle are encouraged to call the Elder Abuse Unit Hotline at (212) 335-9007.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Immigrant Affairs Unit and Community Partnerships Unit provided the following tips to help people protect themselves from a grift:
- Be aware of your surroundings and remain on alert for people eavesdropping in public places, such as parks and coffee shops. Charlatans will use the information later to gain a stranger’s trust.
- Beware of anyone offering to rid you of bad luck or evil spirits. Scammers often claim to sense the presence of malicious spirits and warn that spirits will make the victim’s loved ones sick or prevent deceased family members from finding peace.
- Do not trust strangers who pose as “spiritual doctors.
- Avoid “blessing rituals.”
- Do not give your cash or jewelry to strangers.