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Record ¥26.8 billion stolen via phone fraud in first half

JIJI

The amount of money stolen in “special” fraud cases surged to a record high of ¥26.830 billion between January and June, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The 27 percent surge from the first half of 2013, however, might just be the tip of the iceberg. According to the NPA, the actual amount of money stolen via special fraud must be far higher because some cases might have gone undetected.

Special fraud is defined as cases in which perpetrators mainly use telephones to avoid direct meetings with their marks.

The first-half figure announced Thursday marks the third consecutive year-on-year rise in the total.

Employees of financial institutions and convenience stores helped prevent ¥13.5 billion from being stolen by talking with potential victims who were about to wire money to swindlers, the NPA said.

In the first half, the amount stolen via so-called “it’s me” frauds accounted for most of the cash at ¥8 billion, up 11 percent from a year ago. In this type of fraud, perpetrators approach targets, mainly elderly people, by pretending to be a family member. They ask them for money by making up lies, stating for example that they have lost company money or fallen into other emergency situations requiring them to supply cash immediately.

Financial investment fraud netted the second-largest amount at ¥7.3 billion, down 13 percent, while billing fraud reached ¥6.8 billion, up nearly threefold.

The number of perpetrators charged with special fraud rose 13 percent to 916, setting a first-half record.

An NPA official said all police divisions should join forces to clamp down on fraud rings and raise public awareness about fraudsters, given that the amount of money swindled is rising.