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Financial security can help protect senior citizens against frauds

By Mu Guangzong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-20 07:21

Financial security can help protect senior citizens against frauds

An investor checks stock prices at a securities brokerage in Fuyang, Anhui province. Lu Qijian / for China Daily

Media reports say some senior citizens have fallen in bad times after being defrauded out of their homes, triggering widespread public concern. In such frauds, targeted specifically at senior citizens, the swindlers take advantage of the "greed" and credulity of the elderly to trick them into mortgaging their homes to get a loan, and then invest the amount for a "high rate of return".

In one case, the fraudsters promised to give the victims an interest rate of 10 to 15 percent on an investment of three months and eventually return the full principal. The swindlers told the senior citizens they can easily make hundreds of thousands yuan in three months if they mortgaged their house to get a loan for investment. Without carefully checking the dozens of pages in the contract or calculating the potential risks, the senior citizens blindly signed their names on the contract.

The contract turned out to be a carte blanche agreement entrusting the fraudsters to deal with their house. Immediately after getting hold of the contract, the fraudsters sold the house for a price that was far below the market rate.

Such victims end up losing their house and all their other belongings. On top of that, they face fierce criticism from family and friends for being "greedy" or careless.

The fact, however, is, the fraudsters take advantage of the victims' ignorance about financial contracts and transactions, as well as the loopholes in the laws and regulations, which is a big problem with the eldercare financial market.

To prevent such tragedies and safeguard their rights and interests, the elderly have to improve their knowledge about prudent investment and risk prevention. And the government has to take effective measures to curb such frauds.

First, senior citizens are a disadvantaged group. They generally lag behind social development, because after retirement, their social interactions and urge to gather relevant information gradually decline. The number of "empty nest elders" is increasing rapidly, and most of them suffer from solitude or depression or both. And owing to their longing for love and care, such senior citizens are more likely to be targeted by fraudsters.

As such, the elderly should be aware of their own disadvantages, especially when it comes to legal matters such as financial contracts, and seek the help of younger people who they know well to catch up with the times.

Second, many of the senior citizens who have fallen victim to fraudsters share the human weakness of "greed" and credulity. Almost all the senior citizens who have been cheated were lured by the high rates of return on investments. In fact, some of them had fallen victims to frauds earlier, too, but failed to learn a lesson. Given that today's society is more complicated than ever before, the elderly need to exercise self-control to avoid falling into traps.

Third, market economy has many loopholes, and the government is responsible for protecting the rights and interests of senior citizens. And safeguarding the elderly against frauds by making effective institutional arrangements is an important social obligation of the government. For example, the notary public office, which is empowered to witness and authenticate documents and take affidavits, should take effective measures, such as setting up risk and early warning systems, to prevent frauds against senior citizens.

In particular, owing to the rapidly increasing aging population, the authorities should actively help the elderly to preserve and increase the value of their assets and guard them against financial risks. And governments at all levels should clean up and regulate the financial market to prevent frauds against senior citizens and strictly crack down on illegal financial activities. They should also build and regulate new support models for the elderly, such as allowing them to sell or lease their houses to earn enough to lead a dignified life.

The author is a professor at the Population Research Institute of Peking University.

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