LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A suspected scam is targeting restaurants in Chinatown. Messages with demands for payment and threats of lawsuits! A warning is being sent to restaurant owners to stay vigilant and not fall for this suspected scam.
Angry messages were sent to one valley Chinese restaurant owner demanding payment on the Chinese social media platform WeChat. But the owner believes the demand may be an actual scam.
This is what happens: The person orders take out or delivery and then claims to “find” a piece of a metal scrubber in their food saying it injured their child. Pictures are sent along with demands the restaurant pay for medical expenses or else.
The restaurant owner we spoke with says she was shocked when she got this message last month.
“With business hard to come by right now, we’re afraid. We’re afraid they will spread the word and say my restaurant did this and that.”
Jun Ren owns a restaurant in Chinatown. She wants it un-named as she’s afraid the scammers may come after her business for speaking out. Ren says she got the message on WeChat demanding payments of more than a thousand dollars.
“They said in America when a child gets hurt, how do you not have one or two thousand dollars to pay for their injury? I’m like I don’t even know how all this escalated so quickly,” she said.
Ren got suspicious. She spoke with other local Chinese restaurant owners in a WeChat group where they also got the same exact pictures in the same exact scenario. Another owner actually paid money directly. Ren believes there are some reasons why they are being targeted.
“Our English isn’t very good, and the money they want is not an extremely high amount,” she said.
Shannon Yang runs the Chinatown Vegas website and is also part of the WeChat group. She says at least six Chinese restaurants in the valley got these messages and threats in the past few months, the most recent last week. She says $2000 is a lot for so many restaurants and believes it’s deplorable these owners are being targeted.
“With scammers now targeting businesses to get more out of them, it is very heart-wrenching,” Yang said.
Yang says the scammers are likely a group of Chinese people as the interactions have all been in Mandarin with different phone numbers. She contacted the FBI and is warning other owners to be vigilant if they come across something like this.
“If you suspect something is not quite right, it’s still smart to ask around,” she said.
Ren says she believes the suspected scammer will target other restaurants, not just Chinese ones, and is doing her part to spread the word on WeChat.
“I’m sending this warning to others, so they don’t fall for this. I hope no one else does like I nearly did,” she said.
We did reach out to the FBI for comment and the agency says it can neither confirm nor deny an investigation is taking place.