Vancouver police are warning the public about a group of scammers who are preying on the cultural beliefs of Chinese senior citizens.

Police said the thieves have scammed $115,000 in cash and an unknown value of jewelry from elderly Chinese women in seven separate incidents in East Vancouver.

Const. Brian Montague said the victims were approached by a group of three or four Asian women, sometimes accompanied by an Asian man, who speak Cantonese.

The scammers convince the victims they are being followed by a ghost or evil spirit that will cause bad luck and the death of a child.

They then convince the victims to bring $20,000 in cash and jewelry so the bad luck can be removed with “blessed mystical water” or a “lucky” jade bracelet.

“The victim is being duped or fooled into leaving, getting cash and jewelry and returning, and it’s a bait and switch,” Montague said.

Police said the suspects then performed a short prayer ritual in which the water bottle, money and jewelry were put in a bag and “blessed.”

During the prayer ceremony, the suspects stole the cash and jewelry from the bag, and replaced it with other worthless items.

“The victims are told not to open the bag for several days and not to tell their families... When the victim opens the bag they realize what has been given in return is a bag full of worthless items,” Montague said.

Montague said the incidents took place between 9 a.m. and noon and the women were approached on the sidewalk in East Vancouver and Chinatown.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vancouver Police Financial Crimes Unit at 604-717-2570 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477.

The Chinese Community Policing Centre provides Cantonese and Mandarin speaking staff that can assist with non-emergency crime reporting at 604-688-5030.