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A total of 608 cybercrime cases related to the novel coronavirus pandemic were handled by police across Japan in the first half of 2020, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

Cases, including consultations, linked to the pandemic were reported in 44 prefectures after late February. Of the total, 286 cases, or 47 percent, were fraud cases in which victims ordered face masks online but did not receive them.

Other cases included people being sent suspicious emails from parties that claimed to be mobile phone companies telling them to access a website link to apply for cash benefits distributed by the government, totaling 115 cases, and 55 cases involving the theft of credit card information provided during the purchase of face masks.

There were also 57 cases of obstruction of business, such as false information posted online claiming that infected people were in certain eateries, including some that led to police action.

Multiple cyberattacks on companies were also confirmed. Hackers are believed to have sought to steal information by pretending to be a public health center and urging email recipients to open attached files.

Similar attacks were identified citing medical institutions and research facilities overseas, and the police have warned domestic pharmaceutical companies not to open suspicious files.

Meanwhile, the number of fraudulent money transfer cases using internet banking services totaled 885 in the January to June period, with total damage reaching some ¥512 million. The figures do not include illicit withdrawals of bank deposits linked to the Docomo Koza e-money service run by NTT Docomo Inc., revealed in September.

A majority of the fraudulent money transfer cases are believed to involve perpetrators pretending to be financial institutions or parcel delivery firms, and sending victims text messages leading them to phishing sites so that personal information such as ID names and passwords can be stolen.

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