• Kyodo, Jiji

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NTT Docomo Inc. has stopped allowing customers to newly link its e-money service with their accounts at 17 regional banks and Japan Post Bank, officials said Wednesday after cases emerged of improper money withdrawals.

As at least six of the 17 regional banks have been hit by the scam, NTT Docomo, the country’s major mobile carrier, will consider making the identity confirmation process stricter before money is withdrawn.

Japan Post Bank said it will stop customers from making new registrations or changing back accounts to use the e-money service by NTT Docomo for a while.

By linking their bank accounts, users of the NTT Docomo service can pay for shopping and transfer money among other functions. In the recent series of cases, third parties allegedly stole and used bank account numbers and passwords to open accounts for NTT Docomo’s e-money service and moved money from the bank accounts held by the victims.

Users of the e-money can choose from 35 banks but how they carry out identity confirmation is different.

It is not clear how such sensitive information was stolen and how much was withdrawn. Still, no bank has said its system networks were compromised, raising the possibility that phishing emails were used.

A maximum ¥100,000 ($944) can be sent, or “charged,” at a time and up to ¥300,000 a month, according to NTT Docomo.

The 17 banks include six that are found to have confirmed fraudulent withdrawals.

The 77 Bank in Miyagi Prefecture Japan reported a case to local police on Sept. 4. Toho Bank based in the city of Fukushima and Chugoku Bank based in the city of Okayama have also done the same with police in Fukushima and Okayama prefectures, respectively.

Similar cases are also suspected at Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, based in the central city of Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture.

“Customers may not be aware of fraudulent withdrawals if the amount of money involved is small,” a regional banking industry official said.

The banks have suspended their services of allowing customers to link their bank accounts to NTT Docomo accounts.

The 77 Bank has reported the matter to the Financial Services Agency and is considering filing a damage complaint with police.

The banks are also having talks with NTT Docomo on possible compensation for affected customers. The company said that the bank account information used in these cases has not been acquired through its system.

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