Seniors are the prime targets of health care scams

Cao Xinyu
Cao Xinyu
The China Health Care Association statistics show that the sales of health products in China amounted to US$30 billion last year – half of which was contributed by senior citizens.

Cao Xinyu
Cao Xinyu

It’s not unusual nowadays for well-known health product makers to spark controversy.

These businesses are known to prey on the elderly, most of whom are lonely and eager to improve their health.

The China Health Care Association statistics show that the sales of health products in China amounted to 200 billion yuan (US$30 billion) last year — half of which was contributed by senior citizens.

Predictably, many seniors may have been tricked into spending their pensions on dubious miracle cures and folk remedies. They may even suffer from the impacts of the untested drugs.

A recent Xinmin Evening News report claimed that a woman surnamed Chai discovered a “secret room” that belonged to her late father. All sorts of health products were piled up on the bed, cupboard and on the floor. Most of them hadn’t been opened.

Chai said over the past five years, her parents had spent all their savings on health care products. When her father died, he only had 700 yuan left on him.

Chai’s parents had signed contracts with a health products company, which stated that they would receive 3 million yuan if they made it past 100 years.

The reasons why Chai’s parents kept them in the dark can be guessed. Perhaps deep down, they knew their children wouldn’t agree with them spending so much money on health products. Perhaps they knew themselves they shouldn’t have squandered their life savings, but they couldn’t help it.

Scammers go to great lengths to trick seniors into buying unnecessary or fake products. Unlike the old-fashioned door-to-door selling, swindlers now arrange health lectures, free trips or medical checkups for the elderly.

Once the seniors are taken away from their familiar surroundings, scammers start to boast about how effective and important their products are to the seniors’ conditions.

Scammers use different tactics to trap the elderly into their schemes. They can be friendly, addressing seniors intimately. They are sympathetic and always willing to help. They often lure seniors with gifts, like daily necessities, and arrange them to sit with a so-called medical expert, who are usually fakes with no real degrees.

Many believe that seniors get swindled because they are lonely, and they yearn for company. After encountering rare kindness, they tend to let their guards down, even though that, in many cases, seniors are in close contact with their children.

They are so convinced that the affable salesmen do not mean to take advantage of them and that the touted health products really work. If their children try to talk sense into them, it often leads to discords.

To prevent seniors from falling into these health traps, authorities must tighten market regulation on health care products. They also need to investigate the advertisements, especially those on TV promoted by celebrities.

More importantly, their children should be encouraged to pay more visits to their parents, so that the elderly could afford to be less susceptible to the salespersons’ “kindliness.”

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