• Kyodo

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About ¥18 million has been stolen from bank accounts linked to NTT Docomo Inc.’s e-money service, the company said Thursday, prompting police to begin an investigation into a suspected scam.

As of Thursday, 66 cases of improper withdrawals from bank accounts linked to the mobile carrier’s e-money service had been confirmed, NTT Docomo Vice President Seiji Maruyama told a news conference in Tokyo.

“We apologize to the victims” of the improper withdrawals, Maruyama said at the news conference, which was also attended by other company executives.

Maruyama acknowledged that checks on user identification had been “insufficient.”

NTT Docomo, which has stopped allowing customers to create new links between its e-money service and accounts at 35 partner banks, has said it will try to compensate victims for the full amounts stolen through negotiations with the banks.

Partner banks include Japan Post Bank, Aeon Bank and regional banks across Japan.

In May last year, there were similar cases of improper withdrawals from Resona Bank accounts linked to NTT Docomo’s e-money service. Docomo acknowledged it had failed to boost user identity checks to prevent a recurrence.

Among the 35 partner banks, seven regional lenders have stopped all transactions with the e-money service, it added.

Users of the service can use their smartphones for payments at shops and for money transfers, and can easily make e-money available if they link the service to their bank accounts.

Anyone can use the service by registering an e-mail address with NTT Docomo’s membership system, meaning identity checks are not as strict as for mobile phone subscribers.

In the recent cases, third parties are believed to have obtained the victims’ bank account numbers and passwords, and used them to register with the e-money service to transfer funds.

To prevent a recurrence, NTT Docomo said it will introduce additional identification steps, such as requiring new users to register their mobile phone numbers.

The company also said it will introduce one-time passwords to be sent to users’ mobile phones via a text messaging service, and a tighter identification process using photo identity cards.

A maximum of ¥100,000 can be sent from a bank account to the e-money service at one time. The upper limit is set at ¥300,000 a month, which was lowered from ¥1 million after the cases at Resona, according to NTT Docomo.

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