SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The San Francisco Police Department has produced a video in Cantonese that warns elderly members of the Chinese American community about a scam that has netted thieves more than a million dollars in cash and jewelry over the past few months.

The video features a re-enactment of the typical scenario in which a pair of women approach an elderly Cantonese speaking woman on the street and tell her she is possessed by evil spirits. They then try to convince her to bring the scammers money and jewelry in a bag so that she can be cured.

The scammers pretend to pray over the money but switch the bag for another one filled with junk. They then tell the victim not to look inside the bag for a period of time, during which they escape.

An organized crime ring appears to be behind the scheme. Police said victims in Boston, Chicago and New York have also fallen prey to the thieves.

In May, several women from Hong Kong were arrested in connection with the scam during a stopover at San Francisco International Airport.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has filed charges against three of the scammers in connection with $100,000 worth of thefts allegedly committed against five San Franciscans.

Gascón said there have probably been other victims in the Bay Area. Police urged anyone who has been approached by the scammers to contact police.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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