The number of swindles, especially those related to works of art, has been rising recently as groups exploit seniors' lack of risk awareness and internet skills. Cao Yin reports.
In November, an amateur antique collector surnamed Chen paid more than 10,000 yuan ($1,479) to a company that claimed to be an auction house and said it could help sell her collection of paintings for a high price.
However, when the 60-something Beijing resident went to the offices of the auction house in a plaza in the capital to meet employees, she discovered that the company and people who had contacted her had all disappeared. She waited a while, as the "employees" had told her that it would take time to sell her collection, but by the start of the year Chen realized she had been swindled, so she called the police.
On June 30, police officers in the capital's Haidian district detained seven people suspected of defrauding seniors by setting up a fake auction house and charging high service fees. The suspects are still in detention and investigations are ongoing.
In recent months, police, prosecutors and judges citywide have dealt with a number of similar cases involving victims age 60 and older, as part of a nationwide campaign against groups of swindlers who target the elderly.
On Aug 4, a total of 100 people in 15 separate cases received prison terms and fines for cheating seniors in Beijing. They were given sentences ranging from eight months to life imprisonment by the city's eight courts for offenses that included fundraising fraud and bilking people out of their savings. So far, more than 11 million yuan has been returned to the victims.
"Many scammers prefer to commit fraud in the field of art and antiques because they know that a lot of older residents are interested in collecting stamps, commemorative coins or currencies, and paintings and calligraphy, and they want to make more money through the appreciation of their collection," said Shang Dengyu, a judge at the Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing.
He added that art-related fraud involving older people has been rising over recent years. The victims, mainly age 70 or older, are chosen because they have poor legal awareness and scant knowledge of how to use the internet to verify the information they have been given.