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Boston Police Warn Of Hypnosis Robbery In Chinatown

BOSTON (CBS) - There is anger on the streets of Chinatown at the idea that scam artists are taking advantage of elderly women.

Boston Police have issued a Community Alert about a new scam. It's one very similar to those that have already emerged in Asian communities in New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

In the Boston case, the victim claims three young women approached her on the street. One of the women asked her a series of questions - all in Cantonese -- about her family.

In the span of just a few minutes, the victim alleges the women hypnotized her without her permission and convinced her to go back home and put all of her valuables in a bag.

When all was said and done, the victim handed over to these women $160,000 in cash and jewelry.

Boston-area psychotherapist Lorna McKenzie-Pollock uses hypnosis on some of her clients. She says no one can be hypnotized to do something they don't want to do.

"I've been doing hypnosis for about 20 years," explains McKenzie-Pollock, "and I could never get someone to part with $160,000 . . . unless they wanted to give it to me."

She says it is actually not impossible for someone to be hypnotized on the street by a stranger, as is alleged in this case. But more likely, she feels, is that in the Boston scam, the woman was just conned out of her cash by some very artful criminals.

"In order to really hypnotize somebody," says McKenzie-Pollock, "they have to kind of trust you and you have to have some kind of rapport with them. And it sounds like these women did that, that they were really master con artists, that they asked her the right questions and kind of developed rapport with her. What happened next, I'm not really sure. I don't think it was hypnosis but it was something pretty powerful."

The Boston Police Department encourages individuals who have further information regarding this incident or a similar incident to please contact the District A-1 detectives at 617-343-4571 or 911. The BPD has detectives available who are fluent in Chinese and other Asian dialects.

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