• Kyodo

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In a joint effort to fight rampant “furikome” bank transfer scams targeting elderly people, the police, financial institutions and the Finance Ministry’s branch in Fukuoka Prefecture have launched a system in which institutions alert the police each time a person aged 65 or older asks to make a withdrawal of more than ¥5 million.

Commercial banks, “shinkin” credit banks and credit associations are participating in the system, which was introduced in December.

Under the system, the institutions notify the police regarding any request for a hefty cash withdrawal after the clerk checks the customer’s age and the purpose for the withdrawal.

Exceptions are made only when they can confirm the customer has a legitimate reason, such as for business needs.

Upon notification, a police officer visits the branch to screen the customer and make sure the person is not being deceived by swindlers.

Furikome scams routinely involve a perpetrator phoning an elderly victim and pretending to be close kin or someone in contact with close kin who are in need of large amounts of emergency cash. The victims are usually instructed to deposit a large sum of cash into a designated bank account or hand the cash over to a designated recipient.

Also under the planned crackdown on transfer scams, when an elderly customer at a financial institution requests to make a withdrawal less than ¥5 million but over ¥2 million, the customer will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to provide more information, such as the intended recipient. The police will be notified if the clerk gets suspicious.

According to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police, the system has already proven effective by stopping some individuals from being scammed.

Currently, ATMs at financial institutions have daily limits on cash withdrawals, typically ¥500,000. For this reason, victims targeted by the scam often use the teller counter instead to withdraw the larger amounts demanded by scammers.

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