National

Elderly fall victim to Net trouble via smartphones: white paper

Kyodo

Consumer consultation centers across Japan received a record 90,893 inquiries about smartphone-related services in fiscal 2015, the government said Tuesday, pointing in particular to problems experienced by elderly people.

Over the past year through March, the number of inquiries pertaining to smartphones shot up 30 percent from the year before, according to a white paper on consumer affairs approved by the Cabinet the same day.

The inquiries include cases related to adult websites, paid videos and dating services.

In contrast, the number of consumer affairs inquiries declined by 19,000 to 927,000 over the past year, the Consumer Affairs Agency report said.

Consultations related to smartphone services, which totaled just 94 in fiscal 2010, have increased sharply during recent years — to 5,679 in 2011, 20,661 in 2012, 43,107 in 2013 and 70,672 in 2014, the report said.

In fiscal 2015, the number of consultations pertaining to social networking services such as Facebook or to the messaging app Line used over smartphones or personal computers also increased to a record high of 9,004, up about 30 percent from the previous year.

Some inquiries involved cases where people were registered against their will as members of adult websites to which they were automatically led when viewing social networking sites on a smartphone.

Other users received smartphone bills for paid website services they never used.

The agency attributed the rise to an increased smartphone usage by middle-aged and elderly adults.

The total number of consultations decreased as cases involving people aged 65 or above dropped 22,000 from the year before to 240,000, according to the agency.

Still, the agency cautioned, “Elderly people are targeted by people using fraudulent means, and the number of consultations related to the elderly still remains high,” adding it is important for people around them to be vigilant and provide help as needed.

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