Good news for samaritans: Alipay insures against “old-man scam”

Jing Gao

Chinese online payment system, Alipay, has introduced a new type of insurance, claiming it can shield good Samaritans in China from scams and their legal repercussions.

Under the so-called “Senior Helpers Insurance” policy, a policyholder pays three RMB for a year’s coverage of up to RMB 20,000 in litigation costs and free legal advice. If the policyholder unwittingly helps out a senior citizen injured or incapacitated in an accident and is later wrongfully accused of having caused the accident, he is entitled to a claim.

Sinosafe Insurance currently fully provides the policy to residents in 12 Chinese provinces and municipalities. Residents in 19 other provinces can also buy the insurance, although claim support will be limited.


The “Senior Helpers Insurance” policy is commonly interpreted as the insurance industry’s answer to the growing number of roadside traps that have made national headlines.

In 2013, when an elderly man in Dazhou, Sichuan province fell on the street, three schoolchildren stopped to offer assistance, only to find the man had set them up for monetary compensation by alleging they “knocked him over and caused his injury”. Subsequent police investigation cleared the children’s names.

This August, two schoolchildren in the southern city of Guangzhou were sued for damages by an old man they went out of their way to help on the street. By declaring the “accident” a sham, the court ruled in favor of the two children, who said they felt deeply saddened by what had transpired nevertheless.

While those who fake accidents in China come from all age groups and both genders, a majority of them are seniors, which can be partly explained by a lack of financial income or social security on the part of offenders. Seniors also tend to have a higher success rate in duping unsuspicious strangers and extorting compensation, thanks to their seeming guilelessness.

The prevalence of good Samaritans falling victim to planned setups in China has led to a worrisome bystander effect, where people are reluctant to intervene and would rather walk away for fear of getting into trouble and being framed. The debate about whether or not passersby should help strangers in distress has become so heated it was raised during the official civil servant exam in Henan province in 2015.

This newly invented insurance policy has prompted another round of soul-searching online. “In today’s China, you have to take out insurance before you can do any good deeds. It is beyond pathetic,” one commenter wrote on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter.


Photos from Baidu Image

Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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