Chinese New Year begins Tuesday and authorities warned residents about scammers offering blessings but bringing misfortune.
"Seniors with deep religious or spiritual beliefs should be on the lookout for the blessing scam," Deputy District Attorney Ruth Low warned in a video message posted on Twitter by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. "The blessing scam is especially prevalent in the Chinese community."
Fraudsters working in a group and pretending to be strangers typically approach targets on the street. One asks a series of personal questions and then another, posing as a spiritual advisor, uses that information to convince the target of his psychic abilities.
Then the fake psychic warns of a terrible misfortune that awaits a family member unless the target puts cash and valuables into a bag to be blessed and held for two days for the blessing to take effect.
Two days later, the victim finds their valuables have been replaced by junk.
"In one case, a senior lost more than $70,000 in cash and valuables," Low said.
She advised seniors to talk to family members before agreeing to any spiritual help involving personal information or items of value.
She urged anyone approached by someone offering to bless items or warning of impending doom to leave and call police immediately.