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Vendor 'actors' dupe jade fans

ILLEGAL vendors are acting out heart-rending pieces of street theater to dupe foreigners and non-local visitors into spending thousands of yuan on fake jade. A gang of around 12 people, said to be from Hunan Province, take the roles of sellers and customers to target tourists at Duolun Road cultural street, near Luxun Park in Hongkou District. According to residents, some gang members pretend to be selling items. They arrive at stalls with tears in their eyes, claiming they are having to sell family heirlooms for a pittance due to poverty. Other gang members take the role of interested buyers, gathering around the stalls in feigned curiosity, heatedly discussing the authenticity of the "jade," and some bargaining with the seller to attract more passers-by. "Often when visitors pass by they hear them making a deal on a good-looking stone that is usually lower than regular store prices," said 55-year-old resident Song Yuehong. "This creates the impression that the stones are authentic and bargains." Song said most residents know the gang is cheating visitors. Members swap seller and buyer roles and some speak simple English in a bid to entice foreigners. However, locals said they are reluctant to intervene for fear of getting a beating. Visitors fall for the theatrical scam, as every day one or two foreigners and non-locals can be seen buying stones for prices ranging from 1,000 yuan (US$154) to 9,000 yuan, said Song. Fan Duoshi, another resident, said he saw a visitor buying a stone for 3,800 yuan days ago, and returning with police after learning that it was a fake. "When they saw the customer returning, the gang fled in different directions down backstreet alleys so the police couldn't catch them," said Fan. An official with the street's management office, surnamed Yu, said they had cracked down on gang members to stop them entering the street.

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