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May 19, 2010

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Cops: Beware of new 'friend'

IF a stranger you just met in the street offers to take you to some fancy place, don't go, Shanghai police warned as they detained five people for an alleged KTV scam.

In the latest case, the victim, a Southeast Asian who was identified only as Hong by the police, had to pay 17,000 yuan (US$2,500) for some beer and snacks in a KTV venue in Pudong New Area, the Shanghai Exit-Entry Administration Bureau said yesterday.

The police said Hong was walking around his hotel that night in Pudong and was warmly greeted by one of the suspects. The two soon started a friendly conversation.

The suspect gained Hong's trust and confidence by showing him some attractive and popular scenes of Shanghai.

He then showed him the KTV house on Pudong Road S., claiming the boss was his friend and the place was fun.

Hong, not at all suspicious, followed him to the venue at 9pm.

About an hour later, Hong was shocked by the bill: 17,900 yuan for several bottles of beer and some snacks.

He refused to pay. But after being verbally and physically threatened by other suspects, he paid 17,000 yuan to get out of the place, the police said. The suspects were soon caught after Hong called the police.

The police said the case was a typical street scam: Suspects lure the victim in public area, take him or her to an arranged entertainment place and use swindles, blackmail or force to get the victim to pay prices way higher than market.

Police said they would keep cracking down such scams and welcomed information about the crime.

"We hope the foreigners, especially travelers, raise their awareness of self-protection to avoid the scam," an official told Shanghai Daily yesterday. "If there is an emergency, call 110 immediately."

Meanwhile, similar crimes, such as the tea house scam, also go on in downtown streets, for example, around People's Square, according to expats. People are seen going with scammers to some purported secret tea house.

"The players are usually good in English and very friendly and more warmhearted than most of the Chinese people here," said Patrick Dunn, a Canadian who has lived in town for eight years and has interrupted some scams around the square.

"The players approach very smoothly by saying 'I want to practice English with you'," Dunn said.


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