The AARP Chinatown chapter in Los Angeles invited crime victim advocate Alan Lai to deliver a workshop on fraud prevention to elder residents in Alhambra on Monday, August 22, in Chinese.
The workshop, hosted at the UnitedHealthcare AAPI office on Valley Boulevard, focused on educating a Chinese audience to be aware of the “blessing scam,” in which Chinese women have been targeted in the Chinatowns of cities ranging from Los Angeles to Toronto.
The “blessing scam” works like this—three different Chinese women approach an elder Chinese woman by herself, speaking in the same Chinese dialect to establish rapport and later convincing her that a close family member will die unless she brings a bag of her most valuable items, such as cash or jewelry, to get it blessed in Chinatown. The bag gets switched during the blessing, and the woman is told she cannot open the bag again until after 21 days.
Victims of this scam lose an average of $30,000 in cash and another $30,000 worth of jewelry because they are told to bring all their money to make it the most sincere blessing. The scam preys on the fear of losing their children’s lives and superstitious beliefs.
Although Lai is based in Seattle, he specializes in improving communication between law enforcement and minorities with limited English proficiency.
He says that Chinese residents should not go to Chinatown by themselves, they should not share personal information with strangers they meet, and they should walk away if they sense that it is scam.
“File a report for every crime. If you see something suspicious, call 911,” says Lai. He recommends people speak to the 911 dispatcher in the language they feel most comfortable speaking in, that way they could communicate better than when speaking in English.
"Call 911…speak in Chinese and the dispatcher will find you an interpreter," says Lai.
The most effective way to prevent crime is to watch out for each other, says Lai. He thinks Chinatown residents know best and if anything is strange, they are the first ones to know.
Learn more about fraud prevention on AARP’s Fraud Prevention Network website, which includes a fraud hotline and an opportunity to receive scam alerts.
(Feature photo by Jc Olivera is licensed under CC BY 2.0)