National

Law eyed to prevent 'wangiri' phone scams

Toranosuke Katayama, the minister of telecommunications, said Friday his ministry may submit a bill to the Diet in the fall to put an end to the phone scam known as “wangiri.”

“I have instructed the head of the bureau (in charge of such matters) to consider legal measures in view of the next Diet session,” Katayama told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Telephone networks have been paralyzed recently due to the wangiri scams, in which telephone service operators, usually offering sex-related phone services, make thousands of random calls a minute to cell phones.

The New Conservative Party, one of the three ruling parties, has asked that a bill to regulate operators of wangiri calls be submitted to the Diet during the extraordinary session scheduled for autumn. New Komeito, also of the tripartite coalition, has informally made a similar request.

While the details of the bill have yet to be decided, they are likely to include such measures as punishment for offenders, which cannot at present be carried out under contracts made with phone carriers.

On Thursday, phone carriers NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. asked for ministry approval to tighten their contracts for telephone services, enabling them to suspend connections for malicious callers that disrupt their phone networks.

Katayama welcomed the move by the two regional phone carriers of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., saying, “I am grateful that they took swift measures.”

Wangiri calls ring only once, leaving the caller’s number on the cell-phone display and tricking the receiver into returning the “missed” call.

Callers are then directed to a taped phone-sex message or to information on other types of adult entertainment. Those who stay on the line are usually charged huge fees.

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