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June 2, 2010

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'Seers' seek foreigners to gull

WATCH out. Fortune tellers may be preparing to scam a fortune out of your wallets.

A group of 19 middle-aged women who claim to be Buddhist fortune tellers are now hiring university students as translators to extend their illegal business to foreigners arriving for the World Expo.

They already hired one young man to provide English translation services for foreign customers.

Usually the translator gets 20 percent of the overall income.

The women are looking for more translators because, with more visitors coming to the city, their business is booming.

The women, who often work in front of Shanghai's City of Books on Fuzhou Road and Jing'an Temple, claim to be members of Anhui Province's Jiuhuashan Mountain Buddhist association.

They said they learned psychic and palm-reading skills from a famous and mysterious monk.

But an official with the association surnamed Chen told Shanghai Daily that they had never sent anyone to Shanghai to tell fortunes.

Chen warned local residents and foreign visitors alike that the self-proclaimed fortune tellers are only seeking to scam the unsuspecting.

Local police also alerted foreign visitors not to trust them and never to invite them to their houses for a so-called feng shui inspection.

A police officer surnamed Ding said they had carried out spot checks to stop the fortune tellers in front of City of Books. But they lacked the evidence to detain them.

According to Shi Jingyuan, a chief "psychic reader" of the fortune teller group, they have been running the business for over a year. They usually charge 20 yuan (US$2.93) to local residents and up to 300 yuan to foreigners.

"Foreigners are showing great interest in our business, so we are looking for language talents to join us," said Shi.

She said the translation job would be very easy: "Just recite some paragraphs of compliments and repeat them to the foreigners."

But it may bring great benefit, she said. A foreigner gave a 100 yuan tip to the translator days ago, she said.

A Shanghai Daily reporter yesterday spotted Shi quarreling with a young customer, Wu Chenyan, when Wu refused to pay for her service.

"She observed my eyes and told me I was likely to have love affairs these days, but it was nonsense as I just broke up with my boyfriend," said Wu.


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