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Japan is seeing an increase in social media posts pretending to be cash giveaway offers from celebrities, with some people cheated out of electronic money through such scams.

“There is no law to crack down on social media ‘catfishing,'” an expert said, using a term for deceptive impersonations online, calling for swift measures against such fraud.

In January 2019, entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa drew attention by offering on Twitter to give ¥1 million each to 100 people. The number of such cash giveaway posts has grown since then.

The posts typically ask people to become followers of the account or retweet a post to get the money. Some accounts post photographs of wads of notes to lure people in while withholding their identities.

A resident of Ishikawa Prefecture in her 30s was swindled out of ¥5,000 worth of e-money in November last year through a fake Twitter account opened in the name of Yuta Misaki, another famous entrepreneur.

The account used as its profile picture a photo of Misaki, who actually offered to give away cash on social media in September 2019.

The woman believed she would receive ¥1 million if she sent e-money worth ¥5,000 as told by the fake account. But when no reply came, she realized she had been deceived.

“I thought there would be no problem, as (the fake account) had several hundred thousand followers,” she said.

Rissho University professor Kimiaki Nishida, a social psychologist, said that Twitter verification badges and large numbers of followers make it easier to win users’ confidence.

Meanwhile, verification badges and accounts with several hundred thousand followers are sold online for tens of thousands of yen.

Maezawa and Misaki, whose names were used on fake Twitter accounts with verification badges that had been traded, have called attention to the problem, warning that many people are being deceived.

Twitter Inc. has started reviewing its verification badge screening process.

“It’s hard to investigate accounts traded online, as they are registered based on fictitious information,” said Narumi Sasaki, a former member of the Saitama Prefectural Police’s digital crime investigation team.

“It’s necessary to outlaw such catfishing and trading in fake accounts,” Sasaki said.

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