A significant increase in juvenile offenders involved in so-called special fraud cases inflicted ¥17.49 billion in financial damage in the first half of 2018, National Police Agency data showed Thursday, although financial losses stemming from such cases dropped for the fourth consecutive year over the January-June period.
Special fraud cases include phoning seniors and asking for money while impersonating their children and the issuance of false contracts.
Although the figure dropped ¥1.33 billion from a year earlier, the level remains “extremely serious,” an NPA official said, noting that the data saw a roughly twofold increase in the number of juveniles age between 14 and 19 implicated in the crimes.
The police took action against 368 juveniles involved in such cases during the six-month period. A total of 480 cases were reported all of last year, the most since comparable data became available in 2012.
Of the juveniles investigated, 269 individuals — or 73.1 percent of the total — exploited their victims for money, while 47 recruited people to join fraud groups and 11 withdrew money from other people’s bank accounts.
Older fraudsters are increasingly recruiting young children to carry out such schemes because of the risky nature of the crime, according to the NPA.
Those under 14 cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions under the law.
The police said they detected 48 foreign offenders in the January-June period, up from 23 a year earlier.
Fraud cases involving the impersonation of victims’ children or grandchildren over the phone — known as ore-ore sagi in Japanese —rose 843 to 4,560, resulting in financial damages of ¥9.63 billion.
Cases involving the issuing of false contracts fell by 205 to 2,465, with damage of ¥6.11 billion.
These two types of cases accounted for 85.7 percent of all special fraud crimes.
But refund scams, in which victims are manipulated into transferring money in the belief they will be reimbursed, fell 1,130 to 853, with damages of ¥1.07 billion. That figure was down ¥1.17 billion from a year earlier, due to measures that limit the size of money transfers.
People age 65 or older accounted for 75.7 percent of all victims in special fraud cases and 96.8 percent in cases of money transfer fraud involving the impersonation of one of their family members.