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April 4, 2011

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Knife-wielding gang lures victims with iPhones

SWINDLERS are working in gangs to rob victims after luring them with the promise of cheap iPhone 4s, a Shanghai Daily investigation has found.

A local resident, surnamed Fang, told Shanghai Daily that he was forced to pay 2,000 yuan (US$305) for a dummy iPhone 4 by men who threatened him with knives on Changning Road late Friday evening.

Fang said one man, who was not fluent in Mandarin, asked him if he would like to buy a stolen iPhone, but when he paid up Fang found the phone was a plastic model.

While this scam is not new, usually conmen make a quick exit after duping their "customer." But this time, when Fang saw through the trick and confronted the man, several other men appeared and surrounded him.

"They threatened me with knives hidden in their hands, warning me not to call the police," said Fang, "It's simply robbery."

A Shanghai Daily reporter went to the same spot late on Saturday night, where a man fitting Fang's description of the ringleader tried to sell him an iPhone 4 for 2,000 yuan.

Making the excuse of not having enough money, the reporter went to a nearby bank and asked the man to wait outside. After locking himself in an ATM chamber, the reporter called the police.

Suddenly, three men rushed into the ATM chambers on either side and started to bang on the transparent walls, telling the reporter to drop his phone and come out.

It was not until a police siren was heard outside five minutes later that the gang fled.

A patrol policeman said they would trace the swindlers via surveillance cameras, but Shanghai Daily has discovered that the gang has members across the city.

Many local residents have complained online that they see similar swindlers on Nanjing Road E., People's Square and Zhongshan Park, usually working late at night.

Last Monday, three men received prison sentences ranging from six to eight months at Zhabei District People's Court for conning 9,500 yuan (US$1,448) from victims after selling them fake iPhones.


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