National / Crime & Legal

Growing number of scams across Japan exploiting era change to Reiwa, consumer center warns

JIJI

The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (NCAC) has warned of scams capitalizing on the change of era from Heisei to Reiwa, set to take place on May 1, which are starting to be seen across the nation.

In such “era change scams” scammers often send letters in the name of real organizations telling recipients that their bank cash cards need to be renewed because of the change of era, as a way to obtain the targets’ cards.

In some cases, perpetrators succeed in withdrawing money with cards they obtain.

In early February, a 79-year-old woman in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, received an envelope purporting to be from the Japanese Bankers Association, or Zenginkyo — a bankers’ organization that does exist in Tokyo.

Enclosed were several forms presented as documents she needed to complete because of the change of era.

Believing the claim, she entered the name of her bank, the PIN code for her cash card and some other information and sent the form back in the envelope provided.

Early last month, she learned about era change scams from news reports and realized she’d been targeted.

Fortunately, she avoided losses because she had not sent her cash card.

“She told me that she put the envelope in the mailbox without any doubts,” her 43-year-old son said. “She did not notice that she was being cheated.”

Last month, Kanagawa Prefectural Police arrested a man who had attempted to defraud people of their cash cards by sending letters in era change scams.

In Saitama Prefecture, some ¥860,000 was withdrawn in February from the bank account of a woman in her 70s.

She had received a call from a person who told her she needed to renew her bank cards due to the change of era in order to get a refund. She then handed two cash cards to a man who visited her home.

According to the NCAC, many consumers are seeking advice on problems related to the change of era. Many of those who fall for dubious claims are age 60 or above, according to the center.

In one case, a consumer was instructed to buy an expensive book of photographs of the Imperial family, the center said.

An official at the center said it is important not to give out details during calls from telemarketers.

The official also said that banks will not be asking customers to renew their cards because of the era change and urged consumers not to respond to any such fake notices.