Luo Yong, a judge at the criminal division of the Beijing High People's Court, said many fraudsters focus on swindling elderly people in the field of art because some seniors are eager to know how much their collections are worth, but have little knowledge about auctions or the identification of works of art.
She noted that this type of fraud has been seen more often in recent months.
Sun Jingkun, vice-president of the court in Chaoyang, confirmed the trend, and said the rise is related to the rise in Chinese people's purchasing power and the growth of diverse investment channels. To win the seniors' trust, many scammers took them to visit their "workplaces" in office buildings, displaying supposed business licenses and collections ready to be auctioned, he said.
"But actually those workplaces were just rented by the swindlers, and all the auction-related certificates were either bought on the internet or forged," he added.
Shang, the judge from the Chaoyang court, said many of the scammers didn't talk directly about auctions or money with the seniors.
"Instead, they invited the seniors to attend an antique or art exhibition, telling them they would get free gifts if they came," he said.
"When accompanying the seniors to the exhibitions, some scammers asked them if they had seen auction-related television programs, and claimed that some artworks sold on the programs had been provided by their company. All this was designed to relax the seniors' vigilance and strengthen the bonds of trust between them, even though the preparatory work might sometimes take a lot of time."
Dong, from the court in Fengtai, said that handling fraud-related cases involving seniors poses many difficulties.
"Some scammers asked the victims to pay cash to avoid transaction records, and some victims couldn't remember details of the fraud due to their poor memory, and few remembered to save receipts or documents as evidence," she said.
Shang noted that it's hard to recover the financial losses in such cases "because many scammers quickly squandered or transferred the illicit gains". He added that many of the victims became highly stressed or even became ill.