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People concerned their pension account data may have been lost crowded consultation booths Saturday in Tokyo on the first weekend they were set up by the Social Insurance Agency.

A 58-year-old housewife who went to a booth near JR Shibuya Station just after 10 a.m. said she was able to confirm her data is intact.

The data fiasco “would not have been permissible with a private-sector company,” she said, appearing relieved.

The agency’s regional units have seen a sharp increase in people seeking advice since late May, with some forced to wait more than two hours before talking to an official. The 309 regional offices across the country will take the unusual step of opening on Sunday, the agency said.

It said it has also been flooded by a deluge of telephone inquiries and complaints.

“While I did my best to make payments, this is just like a fraud!” said a 74-year-old man who visited a regional office in Musashino, Tokyo, on Wednesday. He raised his voice after being told by staff that they have no record of him making payments for seven years during a period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

In the absence of documents on pension premium payments, “How I can prove it?” the man asked.

The Social Insurance Agency used to issue new pension account numbers to people when, for instance, they changed jobs or got married. It was not unusual for a person to hold more than one pension account book, with the total number of accounts at one point reaching around 300 million, nearly three times Japan’s population.

The agency began unifying overlapping numbers assigned to the same people, but as of June 2006 the owners of around 50 million accounts had yet to be identified. On Wednesday, welfare minister Hakuo Yanagisawa revealed that up to 14 million additional accounts have yet to be processed for the unification.

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