National / Crime & Legal

Losses in Japan from cash card collection scams surged in 2019

Kyodo, JIJI

Losses from cash card collection scams more than doubled in 2019 from the previous year, with swindlers posing as police officers or bank workers visiting victims’ homes and tricking them into handing over their cards, a police report showed Thursday.

The scams netted ¥5.21 billion ($46.8 million), up ¥3.32 billion from 2018, with the number of cases jumping 179.9 percent to 3,773, according to the preliminary report released by the National Police Agency, which said the situation “remains serious.”

In many cases, victims were told there had been unusual activity associated with their bank accounts and were instructed to place their cash cards along with their pin numbers into an envelope for safekeeping. The scammers would then distract the victims and switch the envelope with another.

The report also said the total financial damage caused by all types of such special fraud came to ¥30.15 billion, down ¥8.14 billion and marking the fifth consecutive year of decline. The number of special fraud cases fell 5.6 percent to 16,836, down for the second straight year.

Such schemes include “ore-ore” (“it’s me”) scams, in which swindlers collect money by pretending to be children or grandchildren of the victims. As the police have intensified their crackdown on the crime, the amount swindled in these scams totaled ¥11.16 billion, down ¥7.73 billion, with their number falling 26.8 percent to 6,697.

The police investigated 2,911 people over a record-high 6,773 special fraud cases. Of the 58 people identified by the police as ringleaders, 26 were members or close associates of crime syndicates.

Between April and December last year, police detected 91,798 cases of fraud in which perpetrators asked targets about their assets over the phone and visited their homes. In the whole of 2019, 11 related robbery cases occurred, including one incident in which a woman died.

As part of efforts to crack down on special fraud, Japan introduced a measure in September to disable land line phone numbers used for fraud. The measure was used in 887 cases by the end of last year.

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