A group of con artists who were targeting lovesick singles through the Chinese version of TikTok were arrested by Shanghai police when one of the alleged victims filed a report after losing 13,000 yuan, or $1,870.
The woman, who was identified by her last name, Mai, in the South China Morning Post article, told police she found one of the “fortune tellers” on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, in October. She initially paid $86 to hear her fortune and was told by the group that if she underwent a series of rituals, she could win her ex-boyfriend back.
A listing of the group’s services was released by Shanghai police in December after Mai reported the scam. Patrons were required to purchase ritual instructions and amulets that cost several hundred dollars.
According to police, the fortune tellers collected $115,000 from scamming before they were caught.
Similar fortune-telling and horoscope services are very popular in China, and most people find information through video-sharing platforms like Douyin and Bilibili and horoscope-focused apps like Cece.
Ren Yongliang, the founder of Cece, said in a 2018 interview that the app was growing by 3,000 new users every day since its launch. Zhang Jinyuan, the CEO of Uncle Tongdao, an incredibly popular astrology account founded on WeChat, told NewsChina that the internet is the best thing to have happened to the horoscope business.
In recent years there’s been a boom in Chinese youth gravitating toward online fortune-telling. While divination has been integrated into Chinese culture for centuries, the pandemic has pushed younger generations to seek life and love answers from online apps — although not all of them require payment to participate.
But with this context, it’s clear that the group that scammed Mai and others out of money was taking advantage of the rising popularity of online horoscopes and fortune-telling.
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