A 37-year-old man and five others have been arrested on suspicion of fraudulently acquiring ¥171 million worth of reward points through fictitious purchases via thousands of accounts, according to Tokyo police.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Genki Minami, president of a secondhand store, and five other men and women on suspicion of computer fraud, it was learned Friday. They have admitted to the charges, according to police.

Minami is believed to have been recruiting people on social media to cooperate with him on the fake transactions under the veil of poikatsu, or collecting reward points through the purchases of products.

Between late March 2020 and late September 2022, the suspects allegedly made about 167,000 purchases totaling some ¥27.63 billion between Minami’s company and the five suspects, using au Pay, a cashless payment service operated by telecommunications giant KDDI. After Minami received the funds from au Pay, he would return the money in cash to the other suspects while keeping the points.

Au Pay offers points for each transaction up to ¥250,000, with users receiving 0.5% to 5.5% worth of reward points. Minami allegedly took 30% of the points and gave the rest to the other suspects. Altogether they swindled points equivalent to ¥171 million.

Each purchaser allegedly bought a large number of smartphones and SIM cards, creating thousands of au Pay accounts for the scheme, investigators said.

It is suspected that, aside from the arrested individuals, other people also responded to Minami's social media recruitment.

The government has been working to promote cashless payments with the aim to increase the usage rate to 40% by 2025 and ultimately 80%.

Information from Jiji, Kyodo added