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Shanghai police dismantle massage scam ring targeting elderly, arrest 74 suspects

By Xu Zhesheng | | Updated: 2024-05-26 22:40
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Police in Shanghai's Pudong New Area have dismantled a scam ring involving nine massage parlors posing as health management centers, leading to the arrest of 74 suspects. Over 100 elderly victims were identified, with one woman losing 220,000 yuan ($30,000).

The scam involved "experts" and "doctors" who created a sense of health anxiety among the elderly, luring them into purchasing overpriced essential oil massage treatments.

One victim, surnamed Wang, was approached while picking up her grandchild from school. She received a flyer offering a "free foot massage for improved health." Experiencing minor health issues, Wang decided to try it out. Over the course of a year, she was persuaded by the massage therapists and "experts" to purchase four high-priced essential oil massage treatment packages, amounting to 220,000 yuan. It was only during a recent medical checkup that Wang realized the essential oil massages had no therapeutic benefit.

Another victim, surnamed Tang, a domestic worker, spent 200,000 yuan at a massage parlor over two years. "They started by offering a free foot massage," Tang said. "Then, the staff said they could check my health for free. After the check-up, they claimed I had blockages throughout my body. They took turns telling me that if I didn't treat these minor issues, I would develop cancer and other serious illnesses, requiring even more expensive hospital treatment."

Initial police investigations revealed the scam ring had defrauded over 100 victims, amassing illegal profits exceeding 12 million yuan since 2022. "Most of the elderly victims weren't aware they were being scammed," said Guo Yanjun, a police officer in Pudong. "Most of them genuinely believed the claims made by the center." Many victims used their life savings to purchase the overpriced essential oil packages, often without informing their children.

The criminal organization was apprehended in late March. The suspects confessed the low-quality essential oils were overpriced by nearly 100 times the actual cost. Currently, eight suspects are under arrest with the approval of the procuratorate. The case is under further investigation and legal proceedings are ongoing.

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