LYNN, Mass. — Local police departments are warning the public about a scam that may be targeting Asians and Latinos, as well as the elderly.
Lynn police are investigating an incident in which a man was robbed of jewelry and cash this week. The scam fits the description of a string of robberies the police department investigated last year.
“We do believe that the same individuals are just returning to this area,” said Lynn Police Lt. Michael Kmiec. “They drive around, and when they see people who are walking down the street who have jewelry visible on them, they’re targeting those individuals.”
The group of two to three people typically drive a car with out-of-state license plates and call to victims walking on the street. They then begin a conversation about their sad life story or a financial troubles before beginning to discuss jewelry.
“At some point during the conversation, they are removing the people’s jewelry, showing them other jewelry, putting other pieces of jewelry on these individuals,” Kmiec said. “And what they end up doing is leaving with the people’s jewelry and leaving them with something that is not real.”
This week, the victim, who is in his 60s, told police a woman removed his necklace and bracelet, discreetly swapping them with her fake, inexpensive jewelry, before stealing $300 from his wallet and fleeing in the car.
The victims this year and last are all Asian or Latino, Kmiec said, likely because it is a cultural norm to wear jewelry, such as chains. Victims may also be more vulnerable if they do not speak fluent English. Thus, Lynn police are warning those communities of the scam.
Police are looking for surveillance video in the area to gather a description of the suspects and the vehicle.
Several similar incidents have been reported in other local towns.
Kiet Chau, who was loading groceries into his car outside a Market Basket in Billerica Monday, said a man approached him with a woman and two children in the car.
“He was trying to tell me he has a problem with his car, he needs some money. I say, ‘How much do you need? What do you want?’” Chau told Boston 25 News Wednesday. “He didn’t specify how much he needed. So he said, ‘You know, if you have more money, I have some jewelry. I can give you my jewelry.’ So he proceeded with taking off jewelry from his fingers. At least a couple rings, possibly a bracelet.”
Chau became suspicious and snapped pictures of the man and his vehicle, including the out-of-state license plate. The man immediately left the parking lot, and Chau called police, who arrived and took a report, he said.
“I thought that someone out there probably has fallen for [this scam], and I’m glad that I wasn’t the one,” Chau said, adding that he had seen warnings on social media. “It dawned on me that, ‘Hey, this is probably the same situation that other Asian people [have reported] that I’ve heard of on Facebook.’”
Chau posted his experience on Facebook, warning others.
“I do want other people to be aware such a scam exists, and I want the word out so people will not fall for it,” Chau said.
Lowell police also posted an alert on Facebook Wednesday, informing the public about the scam targeting “unsuspecting victims, often elderly.”
“These individuals travel in a team. Usually an adult male/female with a teenage female,” the police department wrote. “Do not approach them, do not engage in conversation with them.”
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