A recent case Shang dealt with saw 14 defendants receive prison sentences ranging from 30 months to 12-and-a-half years after they were convicted of cheating 160 people out of about 24 million yuan between January 2016 and April 2019 by untruthfully claiming that they could sell works of art. One hundred and forty of the victims were age 60 or older, among whom 20 were age 80 or older, according to Shang.
"The scammers had a clear division of work," he said. "Some were responsible for stealing the seniors' personal information, while others pretended to be auction house employees so they could visit or call the seniors to ask if they had any works of art to sell."
During the chats, the scammers learned about the seniors' financial situations. If a target expressed interest, the swindlers would claim they could help to sell art collections at high prices, and earned large sums of money by charging the victims high service fees.
A few days later, the fraudsters would tell the victims that their artworks had failed to sell, Shang said.
Some of the artworks were later found abandoned in a warehouse, but many were of low value.
Dong Xiaoyu, a judge at the Fengtai District People's Court in Beijing, dealt with a similar case in 2020. "At first, the scammers even organized fake auctions to win the seniors' trust, and then arbitrarily made up prices for the artworks," she said.
"In fact, those responsible for evaluating the prices of the collections had no qualifications, and the auction house was just a small company registered for non-auction purposes."