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Japan fraudsters demand money to 'clean coronavirus out of household pipes'

Gunma Prefectural Police headquarters is seen in Maebashi. (Mainichi/Hinako Kikuchi)

MAEBASHI -- Fraudsters have been calling people in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, to tell them they have the coronavirus in their household pipes and that they will have to pay to get them disinfected, according to local police.

As of March 3, at least four households in the eastern Japanese city had received calls from someone claiming, "Your water pipes are coated in the coronavirus. It will cost quite a bit to get rid of the germs." The Takasaki Police Station believes this is just one form of fraud designed to prey on people's fears over the spread of the novel coronavirus, and is calling on residents to exercise caution.

According to the police station, on the afternoon of March 3, households made up of members in their 50s to their 80s received calls from a man claiming to be from a water utility. The man then quoted fees of between 80,000 and 200,000 yen (about $745-$1,860) to rid the targets' pipes of the "coronavirus contamination."

There are as yet no known cases of people falling for the swindle.

"People may be nervous just hearing the word 'coronavirus.' But if someone asks for personal information such as your bank account number or PIN, do not tell them, and inform police immediately," the Takasaki Police Station advised.

(Japanese original by Ami Jinnai, Maebashi Bureau)

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