The Ministry of Public Security said on Dec 20 that it will focus on preventing healthcare fraud against elderly people by beefing up its criminal investigations and creating long-term mechanisms to crack down on such crimes.
“Fraud targeting senior citizens has been rampant in recent years, so we must take multiple measures to protect their rights and interests,” said ministry spokeswoman Guo Lin.
The ministry will ratchet up its cooperation with news media, market administrations and other bodies to raise elderly people’s awareness and alert them to different kinds of scams, she said.
“Scamming senior citizens to sell illicit healthcare products has become more frequent in recent years, causing serious financial harm, as well as harm to the physical and mental health of elderly people,” said Chen Shiqu, deputy director of the ministry’s criminal investigation bureau.
Criminal gangs often pose as a company and lure people with free gifts, health checks, medical lectures or tours to win their trust. They package themselves as medical experts and tout their products and services as charitable and high-tech with surprising effectiveness.
Many seniors don’t call the police after being scammed, Chen said, adding that older people tend to be easily tricked by fake experts who deceive them using technical terminology. Because the elderly, in general, are not as technologically literate as younger people, they tend to have limited access to scientific information, he said.
This year, Chinese police have successfully cracked more than 3,000 fraud cases related to healthcare products, detained about 1,900 suspects and retrieved property worth 140 million yuan ($20.5 million) for members of the public, the ministry said.
The ministry is planning to scrutinize marketplaces that deal with healthcare products, as well as investment and finance markets. It is encouraging the public to report any suspicious threats to the police, spokeswoman Guo said.
Chen said fraud against the elderly has expanded nationwide and that the amounts of money involved are increasing. He added that criminals’ methods are also shifting and are continually updated.
In a typical case, Chen said, a syndicate busted recently by police in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, was found to be selling counterfeit cardiovascular drugs to people over 65 years old.
The scammers pretended to be part of a social welfare group and sent fake medical experts to provide free examinations for cardiovascular disease. The medical products were presented as being developed by top medical authorities and having four international patents－and priced at only 987 yuan after a discount.
Yang Nianhu, deputy director of the criminal investigation bureau of the Jiangsu Public Security Department, said it was later found that the products were not approved and were made mainly of vegetable oil for around 60 yuan.
Police detained 60 suspects and seized more than 2,000 cardiovascular products and 3 million yuan in cash.
Since the beginning of the year, the ministry has deployed public security bureaus across the country in a fierce crackdown on such activities, with some major cases directly supervised by the ministry to ensure the campaign was conducted at full strength, Chen said.
Police have also partnered with local market administration bodies and medical and health departments, forming a joint force to offer support for product verification and supervision, he added.
“We will always put safeguarding people’s fundamental interests at the center of our work to ensure their happiness and security,” Chen said.