National / Crime & Legal

Elderly make up 80% of fraud victims, police say

Kyodo

Elderly people accounted for nearly 80 percent of all victims of confirmed fraud cases in the first half of 2015, according to provisional data released by the National Police Agency.

“Special fraud” cases, including swindling the elderly by impersonating their children over the phone and asking for urgent money transfers, totaled ¥23.65 billion, the NPA said Thursday.

That total includes cases in which people are charged fees for visits to websites they have never used, and those in which people are offered fake corporate debt or stock issues.

The number of cases in which victims were aged 65 or older rose 544 to 5,408, accounting for 77.2 percent of the total.

The amount netted by swindlers fell 12.3 percent, or ¥3.33 billion, from the same period last year, when it was a record-setting ¥56.55 billion.

Of all asset-related crimes, which include theft, robbery and embezzlement, “special fraud” cases accounted for 50 percent of the total monetary damage.

In the first six months of 2015, the police claimed credit for preventing fraud damage of about ¥14.22 billion, up ¥760 million from a year earlier and a record for January-June.

The NPA said investigators detected 7,007 such cases, an increase of 852.

An NPA official said damage inflicted by fraud is “still at a high level” and that the police will further boost efforts to prevent such cases and tighten control.

By types of fraud, damages from cases involving financial products dropped approximately ¥3.44 billion, largely contributing to the overall decline in the total.

However, damages from impersonation fraud increased about ¥600 million from a year earlier, while that from fake billing jumped ¥1.43 billion.

The police took action in 1,714 cases, up 98 from a year before, and 1,167 suspects were arrested, up 253.

As the police step up countermeasures against furikome bank-transfer scams and other forms of presently rampant frauds, fraudsters are adopting increasingly cunning, sophisticated methods to deceive elderly victims, the NPA said.

According to the agency, a woman in her 70s was instructed by a group of perpetrators on the phone to get dressed up for a funeral and go to a bank and withdraw money, apparently in a strategy to persuade bank staff, who are trained to watch out for potential scam victims, into believing the woman had a legitimate reason to need the money.

The Hiroshima Prefecture woman was instructed to explain the amount being withdrawn was needed because of a relative’s death, which can be any large amount.

The woman apparently was initially contacted by a group of men who described themselves as police officers and members of fictitious organizations. They tricked her into believing the fictitious story that an employee at her bank had ties to a group of fraudsters, and thus that her bank deposits were in danger of being stolen.

The scheme worked. She withdrew ¥22 million, met one of the men and handed it to him in person. The suspects are still at large.

The police have improved strategies to combat fraud and detection mechanisms. For example, they now work more closely with banks and the home delivery services that victims often are instructed to use to send money. But the police say fraudsters increasingly are adopting novel ideas, and that the current state of affairs is like a cat-and-mouse game, an NPA official said.

In another case, the victim was told to take a car catalog to a bank and say they needed money to buy a car in the catalog.

The NPA said there has been a continuous increase in scams targeting senior citizens since 2011, and that nearly 80 percent of the victims in more sophisticated scam cases reported between January and June were aged 65 or older.

“If you receive a phone call from someone demanding money, we suggest contacting a family member or the police,” the NPA official warned.