The New York Police Department (NYPD) is searching for a team of female con artists pulling what they call the “Chinese blessing scam.”
The suspects have been targeting Asian women in their 50s and 60s.
In each incident, police said the victims are told their families are cursed. They are then instructed to place jewellery and money in a bag and give them to women who will perform a blessing ritual to reverse the curse.
The bag is returned to the victims and they discover that their money and valuables have been replaced by bottles of water, police said.
According to police, 5 women in New York boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn have been duped of nearly $500,000 since April.
One woman was reportedly ripped off of $280,000 and jewellery.
A City Council member Margaret Chin said often the victims don’t speak English.
“We just want to make sure people know about these types of situations and to be able to warn their families and friends,” Chin said.