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Phone fraud groups in China targeting elderly victims in Japan

A police officer hands a pamphlet warning about telephone fraud to a visitor at the Maebashi Municipal Government headquarters in the Gunma prefectural capital of Maebashi in this file photo taken on July 20, 2018. (Mainichi)

Groups of fraudsters in China are targeting elderly people in Japan over the phone to defraud them of cash cards, a Japanese man involved in one such group has told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Investigating such fraud cases in China is no easy task for the Japanese police because they have no right to arrest suspects there, and Beijing and Tokyo have no extradition treaty covering criminal suspects.

According to the man, his group was headed by a Chinese man and located in the Jilin province of northeastern China. The man met a Chinese national through a website named "the underground work bulletin board," and moved to China for a three-month stay until April this year.

The group based itself in an apartment of a posh residential district. The Chinese man who was running the operation was in his late 30s and was called the "president." Three Japanese men including the witness were hired to make phone calls to elderly people in Japan based on a list obtained by the president, using mobile phones registered under false names.

According to the man, the scheme works in the following way: A caller pretending to work at a department store tells an elderly victim that his or her credit card has been used without permission. When the senior person replies that they have no idea about the illicit use, the caller informs them that he is contacting police and the Japanese Bankers Association. After that, a fake police officer calls the victim and says a credit card charge may already have been withdrawn from their bank accounts, in a bid to make them worry. A third caller, saying he is from the bankers association, then extracts the password for the victim's cash card by telling the person that he is suspending the victim's bank account and the cash card, adding that someone is being sent to pick up the card.

The group in China then sends a sidekick in Japan, known as an "ukeko" (receiver), to the victim's house to collect the cash card. The card is handed over to another collaborator called a "dashiko" (withdrawer), who withdraws cash from automatic teller machines at convenience stores and other locations. The money is then handed to a "kanrisha" (manager), and sent to China through a Chinese national living in Japan called a "kankinsho" (money exchanger).

The man in question recruited "receivers" and "withdrawers." The group raked in up to 60 million yen a month, and members received 5 to 10 percent of the total as rewards.

The man came back to Japan in April after his relationship with the president deteriorated and he felt his life was in danger. He emphasized that as long as overseas bases of such criminals are left unchecked, the investigation and arrest of phone fraud perpetrators in Japan "has limits" in stopping crimes. Similar groups were operating in the northeastern Chinese cities of Dalian and Shenyang, he added.

(Japanese original by Tsuyoshi Fujita and Hiroko Michishita, Osaka City News Department)

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