Police warn against Lunar New Year scams

San Francisco organizations and officials held their annual Lunar New Year public safety campaign in Chinatown to help prevent scams and the extortion of merchants during the weeks ahead.

San Francisco SAFE has hosted the public awareness campaign for 21 years, and its Executive Director Kyra Worthy said the Lunar New Year was a fearful time for Asian merchants and families of being extorted. Worthy said extortion cases have now dwindled during the celebration thanks in part to the public awareness campaign.

Acting Mayor London Breed said the annual public awareness campaign is a reminder for merchants and residents to be alert and vigilant during celebration of the Lunar New Year:

“Although we have a good time and we love the excitement of it all, it’s sadly also provides an opportunity for criminals.”

Breed also announced that The City added two more foot patrol beat officers in the Police Department’s Central Station. A total of seven patrol officers will now walk the streets in the area.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott went over several safety tips, including how to avoid scams such as the “blessing scam,” which has scammed thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry from the Asian community:

“If anybody is asking you for money, jewelry, or anything like that of value, you might want to take caution and be aware.”

Scott added that people should not bring strangers with them to withdraw money or takeout valuables, and to speak with family members before withdrawing a large sum of money.

The Lunar New Year is on Feb. 16, celebrating the Year of the Dog. The Southwest Chinese New Year Parade will take place on Feb. 24.