SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Three women and a man were arrested at the Alemany Farmers’ Market over the weekend for allegedly stealing jewelry from elderly women, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday.

The four suspects used a scam that targets Cantonese-speaking women, preying on cultural beliefs by offering to pray over the victims’ money and jewelry in order to banish evil spirits.

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KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

“They approach elderly Chinese women, monolingual speakers,” Gascón said, adding that more than 50 victims have come forward locally in the last six months.

Three others were arrested in May for also perpetrating the scam, which has been reported in cities across the United States and in Hong Kong.

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Typically a victim is approached by two people who try to convince her to place money and jewelry into a bag so they can say prayers to rid her of evil spirits. The victims are then instructed not to look inside the bag for a period of time, only to discover later it has been filled with rocks and trash.

“Don’t let strangers come up and talk you out of your things,” Gascón warned.

The San Francisco Police Department produced a re-enactment video that has been shown at several community meetings to increase awareness of the ploy.

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