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Suspicious calls from people who tried to obtain personal information by pretending to offer to make reservations for COVID-19 vaccine shots have been reported in Japan.

There is also a growing number of phishing cases in which offenders lead targets, to which they send invitations through text messages, to fake websites for vaccine shot appointments and steal their personal information and passwords.

Japanese officials are warning of a spike in phishing cases as the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations is increasing in the country.

The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, an independent administrative agency, had received 163 consultations about apparent vaccination-linked scams as of Wednesday. The number began to grow in February and surged in May.

In many of these cases, perpetrators, through phone calls or visits, offered to make reservations for vaccine shots or said inoculations are prioritized for those who pay fees, according to the center.

In late May, the Japan Cybercrime Control Center said that it has confirmed suspicious texts that offered free vaccine shots or calls for early appointments.

The center is calling on consumers not to open URL links in such messages as they can lead to fake websites designed to steal their private information.

“Municipalities don’t ask for money or personal information” in connection with COVID-19 vaccination programs, an official of the consumer affairs center said.

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