Sun, Sep 25, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Guidebook to help public spot Shanghai's phonies

AP , SHANGHAI

Find it hard telling needy beggars from the hucksters? Shanghai's new manual shows you how.

The illustrated guide, "Recognizing Phonies," runs through a laundry list of popular scams, from women faking pregnancies, to counterfeit monks and bogus students asking for help paying tuition.

"Amid the great army of city vagrants, there is a cadre of professional beggars who prey on the sympathies of citizens," reads the manual, issued last month by the city's Civil Affairs Bureau.

"There isn't a trick they won't try," it adds above a drawing of a kindly looking elderly couple forking over cash to a grinning scam artist.

The guide is just one of the ways in which Shanghai and other cities in the country's booming east are struggling to cope with an influx of beggars and vagrants following a 2003 decision to eliminate police powers to detain them.

Supporters hailed the reform as an advance for human rights, although its main effect has been to stretch already scarce social services to the breaking point and stir resentment among city dwellers.

Shanghai officials say they're trying to create a kinder, gentler system of voluntary aid centers that will help the homeless with their immediate needs and send them safely home.

Helping out with a little change isn't a bad thing either, they say.

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