The Zhicheng Public Interest Group, an organization that provides free legal assistance to marginalized groups, has recently released a report on economic crimes against the elderly.
In recent years there has been much concern over an increase in financial fraud against the elderly. Since being set up in July, the Beijing legal services hotline has received 935 requests of advice from the elderly, 21% of which came from victims of financial fraud. Financial products, business projects, health care products and pyramid sales are all being used to cheat elderly people out of their savings.
Zhicheng’s report, released on the 9th of September, is entitled “Risk report on economic crimes against the elderly”. It conducts a comprehensive analysis of this sort of fraud and provides some suggestions on how to prevent it. According to the report, scams linked to financial products for investment in art collections, pension investment, corporation investment, and health care products like medical and therapeutic products account for 43% of the total revenue from financial frauds.
The report reveals that criminal gangs often promote their products in public activities which they organise in the name of official medical institutes and hospitals, promising free gifts and free travel or health lectures and free physical examinations. The elderly who are swindled by such schemes sometimes don’t bother to claim their rights on account of the relatively small loss or fearing complaints from their children.
70% of the victims are between the ages of 60 and 80 and generally in a good health condition, so they are active in social events. As the result, they are more likely to be targeted by such frauds. Apart from the economic loss, fraud also brings about a psychological trauma to the aged because they feel guilty for the loss and are ashamed of telling their neighbours and children. This can undoubtedly result in a negative effect on their psychological health.
The report pointed out that the major reason why the elderly are the main target of fraud is that they lack channels of effective information exchange. According to the report, 54% of the elderly get their information entirely through television. They are therefore incapable of verifying the authenticity of the information which the fraudsters release. Moreover, the elderly pay a lot of attention to health care, which makes them more inclined to trust “miracle cures” whose effects are actually greatly exaggerated.
In recent years more senior people have become aware of how to protect their rights after being swindled, with 75% of victims trying to seek legal help. However, the report also states that in these sorts of cases it is difficult to distinguish between criminal and civil offences; furthermore it is difficult to gather evidence, and difficult to recover the losses.