Over the past few months, San Francisco law enforcement has tightened the screws on the ghost scams, in which teams of con artists steal elderly ladies' money by tricking them into thinking a spirit will kill a loved one.
With the SFPD and the District Attorney's office locked-in on fighting the scam, there have been public service announcements, town hall meetings, arrests, and convictions. The efforts have been effective. Police haven't noted any recent reports of the crime in San Francisco.
The same cannot be said for New York, though, where ghost scammers ran off with $2,000 last Thursday.
Though San Francisco was the first city in America to prosecute people for this series of crimes, authorities in New York have been aware of it for about a year now. There were reports of the scam there in the fall. NYPD passed out fliers warning locals of the scam. Arrest warrants were issued for a few suspects.
Those suspects fled New York for Hong Kong last May. But three of them-- in a group of six-- were arrested while on a layover at SFO, and charged with pulling the scam here. Those women were found guilty earlier this month and sentenced to two years in jail. Because the defendants received double credit for times served, they will be eligible for release within the month. But, with warrants still out for them in NYC, it's possible they will be extradited east and face charges there.
Clearly, though, this group was not the only one targeting America's most populous city. The victim in the recent case was a 72-year-old woman from Manhattan. As the New York Post reported, the scam was no different from the one San Franciscans have become familiar with:
While pretending to perform the "cleansing," the con artists sneakily pocketed the cash while they stuffed newspaper and a water bottle into the bag, sources said.
They handed the bag to the victim, warning her not to open the sack for several days in order to remove "evil spirits," sources said.
Only when the victim opened the bag days later did she learn that she'd been scammed, cops said.
According to NYPD, there have been "more than 10" reports of the ghost scam in New York City.