• Kyodo

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Police in Kanagawa Prefecture set up a team on Wednesday to investigate and prevent fraud targeting the elderly.

The team of more than 100 officers, drawn from different departments, is the first such large-scale initiative in Japan to tackle “furikome” bank transfer scams, according to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police.

About half the team’s officers come from the Second Criminal Investigation Division in charge of investigating mainly intellectual property theft.

“Scams are despicable crimes aimed at stripping people of their important retirement assets, their hard-earned money, in just a moment,” Mitsuhiro Matsumoto, chief of the prefectural police headquarters, said at the kickoff ceremony on Wednesday. “I want you all to share the victims’ pain and anger, and confront (the crimes) with a sense of mission.”

Prefectural police said the team members will be divided into several groups to work on such tasks as tracking cellphones and bank accounts used by suspects, and identifying and locating criminal groups.

Police believe the new system will help the teams carry out more effective investigations by improving cooperation between officers across the prefecture.

“We believe that as a cross-sectional team, officers will be able to (investigate) with a fresh perspective,” a senior officer said.

According to prefectural police, 1,044 fraud cases were reported in Kanagawa Prefecture between January and July, with losses totaling some ¥35 billion — the second-highest figures in terms of the number of cases and the amount of money stolen in Japan.

In recent years, Japan has seen a significant rise in the number schemes to defraud the elderly of cash by phone. New schemes including those involving home renovation and unlisted stocks are also emerging.

Typical fraud cases include conning elderly people over the phone by pretending to be one of their children urgently in need of a money transfer.

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