New Zealand's Chinese community is being targeted by elaborate blessing scams, Police say.
The scammers have been preying on older women who maintain a belief in "traditional spirits and demons". Some victims have reported losing thousands of dollars in money and valuables.
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"We have received multiple reports in the past few years and we were aware of a few reports of this happening in different locations across Auckland earlier this year," says Waitemata East Police Sergeant David Murden.
"Recently we have received further complaints including three reports from victims in the past few weeks on the North Shore."
Potential victims are approached on the street and convinced that an evil spirit is following them and will harm members of their families - unless a blessing ceremony is performed to remove the evil spirit.
The 'ceremony' requires the victim to place all of their money and valuables in a bag to be blessed. The bag is then given back to the victim, and he or she is instructed not to open it for several days and to not tell family members or the blessing will not work and the demon or evil spirit will return. When the bag is finally opened, the valuables are no longer inside and the suspects are long gone.
"We encourage members of our Chinese community to spread the message to warn others of this scam so they are aware," Sgt Murden says.
"Anyone with information about this scam or anyone who believes they have been a victim is asked to contact their nearest Police station - we have staff available for those who speak Mandarin and wish to speak to a Chinese-speaking officer."