According to the Vancouver Police Department, the scam, first seen in 2008, has resurfaced in the city and has claimed at least one victim. Police believe there may be more people taken in by the fraud.
At a press conference held yesterday, police described the scam as "complex and well choreographed." The scam targeted an elderly woman of Chinese descent and was perpetrated by three Cantonese-speaking women between the ages of 40 and 60.
Suspect No. 1 approached the victim on a downtown street and asked her where she could find a jewelry store. She then took out two jade bracelets and told the victim she wanted to pawn them.
While the two were talking, Suspect No. 2 approached and seeing the bracelets, told the victim the jade jewelry was rare and valuable. Suspect No. 1 left and Suspect No. 2 told the victim a similar bracelet had cured her aunt of a disease and she should find the first woman and buy one of the bracelets. Then Suspect No. 3 showed up and Suspect No. 2 told the victim that she was wearing a bracelet similar to the ones Suspect No. 1 had. While Suspect No. 3 was talking to the victim, Suspect No. 2 left.
Suspect No. 3 told the victim that the previous owner of her jade bracelet died while wearing it and because of that, the bracelet has special powers. She also said anyone who refuses to buy a "blood jade" will encounter bad luck such as a relative dying.
While Suspect No. 3 was still talking, the victim saw Suspects No. 1 and 2 across the street waving at her. The three women then convinced the victim to go to the bank to withdraw cash to buy the bracelet. The victim paid $15,000 for one of the bracelets that has practically no value.
Sgt. Joe Chu was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying many elderly Chinese are vulnerable to the scam because they are susceptible to both superstitious beliefs and coercion. And they don't want anyone else to know. "Saving face is absolutely a factor," said Chu.
Many elderly Chinese are also distrustful of police and have a language barrier.
In this case, it was the 60-year-old victim's family that reported the incident to police. Nonetheless, as reported in the Globe and Mail, the victim is refusing to cooperate and says she will not testify in court if the suspects are apprehended.
It is believed the fraudsters may have come from the United States where similar scams have been perpetrated in San Francisco and Seattle.
No arrests have been made although police have obtained surveillance video showing the suspects. The video has not been released to the public.