• Kyodo

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Two men have been arrested for allegedly sending virus infection alerts purporting to be from Google Inc. and deceiving recipients into paying for antivirus software, police said Wednesday.

Shin Sato, 35, and Naoki Yamamoto, 52, were arrested Monday on suspicion of sending the alerts via a mobile phone short message service to a man in his 40s in Iwate Prefecture, between last September and January, and swindling him out of around ¥30,000 ($268) for fake antivirus software, the police said.

The two men allegedly sent over 300,000 short messages purporting to be from Google. At least 1,000 people are believed to have been collectively defrauded of ¥20 million or more since the spring of 2016.

Sato, a corporate executive who lives in Tokyo, has refused to respond to questioning, while Yamamoto, a construction worker from Yokohama, has denied the allegations, investigators said.

The recipients of the short messages were directed to access a website that looks like a Google site. A message would then appear stating that the virus had been removed but recommending the purchase of bogus software to counter similar infections in the future.

The arrests were the first in Japan for a case of “smishing” fraud using SMS text messages, according to the police.

The suspects avoided banking transactions, directing the victims to pay for the fake antivirus software via the settlement processes of auction and flea market sites, either by using credit cards online or by making payments at convenience stores, the police said.

The police arrested a woman in her 50s earlier this month for allegedly defrauding a man in his 30s in Akita Prefecture, in a similar manner.

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