ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) _ Mary David apparently didn't read her cards right. She was arrested for illegal fortune telling and claims she didn't know a thing about Pennsylvania's anti-psychic law.

''I've always wanted to learn to read my own cards, but I look at them and for me, they come out a jumbled mess,'' said Ms. David, one of three fortunetellers who have been charged here.

''I never thought it was a crime until I was arrested,'' she said.

Many states and communities have laws against fortunetelling, but they're rarely enforced. Charges usually are filed only after complaints are made.

''We've only used this law once in the last 20 years - about 15 years ago,'' said Police Detective Terry Storey of Independence, Mo. Eight people were arrested there late last month in a raid on a ''psychic fair.''

Pennsylvania police say there's been no concerted effort to track down fortunetellers. They prefer to chalk up the seers' spell of bad luck to psychics not good enough to foresee legal trouble.

''I don't think the police would take it upon themselves to track these down,'' said Paula Aigner, a Blair County assistant prosecutor who handled the case against Ms. David. ''They've got better things to do.''

Ms. David, 45, was arrested in February 1990 after someone complained. Another Altoona woman was charged after police noticed a steady stream of traffic in and out of her apartment, and she paid $116.50 in fines, court costs and restitution last month. A third woman is accused of bilking money from two clients.

Until the recent interest, officials largely looked the other way, choosing not to enforce the 1972 state law prohibiting fortunetelling for money.

''Anybody who didn't know Mary David read cards didn't live in Altoona very long,'' said District Magistrate Kenneth Garman, who heard the case against the woman. Even a member of his staff said she had visited her.

Ms. David paid $113 in fines and court costs in March.

Police allege that another psychic, who operated as ''Diane,'' took $791 from a man who had a ''heavy burden'' placed on him by another man. She said she could identify the culprit if her client kept coming to her, and gave him candles and a bag of magic dust.

''Diane'' also said she could change the luck of a woman. She allegedly did make the woman poorer - taking $580 in cash and charging $456.81 on her credit card.

''It's a shame that people do this stuff,'' Storey said. ''It's a confidence scheme. It's a shame we have so many naive people.''