Police Chief William Scott and other city officials encourage San Francisco’s Chinese community to report scams happening around Lunar New Year. (Bay City News)

City officials warn residents to beware blessings scams in lead up to Chinese New Year

As San Francisco prepares to ring in the Year of the Rat for Chinese New Year, city officials on Friday reminded both residents and visitors to stay safe during the festivities by protecting themselves against scams.

Although the actual Chinese New Year isn’t until Jan. 25, several events planned in the coming weeks – such as the Chinese New Year Flower Market Fair, the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and the Chinese New Year Parade — are expected to bring thousands of celebrants into Chinatown.

During a news conference underneath the Chinatown Gate, Mayor London Breed said she wants all who come to feel safe and secure.

“As we embark on Lunar New Year in the next two weeks, we will celebrate the year of the rat, we want to take this opportunity to remind everyone, especially here in Chinatown, that we have got to do a good job of looking out for one another, especially our seniors,” she said.

“As we enjoy this city and this community, let us also be on the lookout for a number of challenges that we know continue to persist, especially around Lunar New Year,” she said. “The all-too-popular blessing scam, that is one that we know that has been a problem for our seniors.”

Blessing scams have been an ongoing issue for San Francisco’s Chinese community. The scammers usually target elderly non-English speaking women of Chinese descent by convincing the victims that a loved one, usually a son, is in danger. The scammers then offer to perform a blessing ceremony, which results in victims being swindled of cash and other valuables.

According to both Breed and Police Chief William Scott, non-English speaking members of the Chinese community shouldn’t be afraid to report crimes to the police. Officers in and around the area will be able to communicate with them via an app that can translate languages.

“We all have apps on our phones, so if you have trouble communicating with an officer, we want to make sure that we can get to you and that we can understand, and we can encourage you to report crimes,” Scott said. “We hope the year of the rat will be safe and prosperous for everyone.”

“SF SAFE ((Safety Awareness for Everyone) and the community and police department have made this community much safer. The old extortion scams that we saw 20 years ago are much, much less today,” said District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

“Our district attorney… is absolutely committed to prosecuting blessing scams, as was his predecessor. We will bring an end to that,” he said.

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