ST. LOUIS – It’s business as usual at the China Town Market on Olive Boulevard, but employee Sanfat Wong says there’s been some funny business impacting the Chinese community in St. Louis.

“They call every day,” Wong said.

Wong moved to St. Louis from Hong Kong nearly 30 years ago. He tells us that lately, phone calls from familiar-looking phone numbers have come with unfamiliar messages from the person calling.

“It seems to you they are using what appears to be Asian telephone numbers to contact Asian people?” Contact 2’s Mike Colombo asked.

“Yeah. Also, the embassy. They make false calls,” Wong replied.

“So they try to purport themselves as being from the Chinese embassy or Chinese consulate?” FOX 2 asked.

“Yeah. Actually, I know they are not. Just some people are terrible,” Wong said.

What Mr. Wong describes is one of the scare tactics the FBI says scammers are using to defraud Chinese people living in communities across the United States.

“These folks are speaking their language; they look just like them, and so they’re very believable.” Javier Duran, supervisory Special Agent for the FBI’s Springfield, Ill., division, said.

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Duran says the scammers tell the victims they are the subjects of criminal investigations in China and convince them to pay to avoid arrest or deportation. The main target: Chinese college students studying in the US.

“Unlike the civil liberties that are afforded to us here in the United States and what the Constitution protects us with over there in China, that doesn’t exist. It essentially is a police state, and so culturally, they’re going to think well; whatever the police say is true and whatever the police asked me to do, I’m going to do it,” Duran said.

It’s cost some victims a lot of money.

“We have seen losses in the $90,000 range going up to the $300,000 range,” Duran stated.

Duran says not engaging in the first place is the key to preventing these scams.

“A simple hang-up of the phone or just the deleting of an email or of a link to invite to a Zoom call is enough to disrupt a potential huge financial loss. It’s OK to tell these people no because as long as you’re here in the United States, you’re safe,” Duran said. “You have resources…call your local police department, call the FBI, call FBI Springfield if it’s something that’s happening in our territory.”

“Also good to know the FBI is aware of this and that the FBI is working to prevent these things from happening?” Colombo asked.

“So good. I love to hear that, yeah. That they are paying attention to our Chinese communities,” Wong replied.