Chinese New Year is one of the highlights of the San Francisco calendar, but it’s also a most wonderful time of the year for con artists and scammers. One of the most frequently employed scams is a confidence game known as the Chinese Blessing, but the sentencing of 62-year-old Xuefang Zhou to a four-year prison term may deter the practice of the scam this year.
The Chinese Blessing scam is shockingly simple, and almost always targets elderly Chinese women. The victims are generally approached and told of an impending serious illness in the family which can only be warded off by placing thousands in cash in a bag while saying a prayer with the scammer. The scammer replaces the bag with a similar bag while the victim’s eyes are closed. Zhou not only scammed two San Francisco Chinatown women with this method in 2014, but had also scammed an additional New York City Chinatown victim out of $60,000.
“The fact that elderly Chinese women are being targeted in light of their commonly held beliefs pains me greatly,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “My office has worked to reduce these scams by conducting extensive outreach, collaborating with other agencies around the country, and aggressively prosecuting these cases.”
The District Attorney’s office notes that there are 50 other known victims of Chinese Blessing scams in San Francisco alone, with a total of more than $1.5 million having been swindled from these victims.
The San Francisco Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, and Chinese community leaders are passing out fliers to businesses and elders in Chinatown again this year to educate the community about Chinese Blessing and extortion scams.