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Money illicitly withdrawn from bank accounts in Japan via NTT Docomo service

This file photo shows an NTT Docomo sign (Mainichi/Yukiko Murata)

TOKYO -- Japan has seen a recent spate of cases in which money has been illicitly withdrawn from regional bank accounts via a virtual wallet service provided by mobile carrier NTT Docomo Inc., prompting the company to freeze new registrations of the service with 18 banks as of the morning of Sept. 9.

    Officials are investigating the extent of the damage, amid fears that more losses may be reported.

    Users of NTT Docomo's virtual wallet, Docomo Kouza (bank account), can transfer money to the wallet from a bank account they register when setting up the service. This enables them to make purchases online and send money. If a person has their "d-Account" Docomo ID and the relevant bank account information, the service can easily be set up, so the number of users has been increasing. A total of 35 financial institutions, centering on regional banks, allow links with the service.

    According to NTT Docomo, third parties appear to have somehow obtained users' bank account numbers and passwords. They have then apparently set up Docomo Kouza wallets in the victims' names and withdrew cash from their bank accounts by transferring money from their accounts to the e-wallets. Neither the banks nor NTT Docomo have confirmed any leaks of personal information. Banks where the damage has occurred are responding to inquiries by telephone.

    One user on Twitter reported having a total of 300,000 yen (about $2,832) illicitly withdrawn over four occasions. NTT Docomo commented that it had not sufficiently exchanged information on the extent of damage with the banks from a personal information perspective. It said the company had security measures in place but would strengthen them.

    As of Sept. 8, illicit withdrawals had been confirmed at five financial institutions: The 77 Bank, Ltd. headquartered in Sendai; The Chugoku Bank, Ltd (Okayama); Toho Bank, Ltd. (Fukushima); The Shiga Bank, Ltd. (Otsu); and The Tottori Bank Ltd. (Tottori). Illicit withdrawals were also suspected at The Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank based in the central Japan city of Ogaki, in Gifu Prefecture.

    As of the morning of Sept. 9, NTT Docomo had frozen registration of bank accounts with its virtual wallet service at the above institutions as well as at AEON Bank, Ltd. headquartered in Tokyo; The Senshu Ikeda Bank, Ltd. (Osaka); The Oita Bank, Ltd (Oita); The Kiyo Bank, Ltd. (Wakayama); The Sendai Bank, Ltd. (Sendai); The Daisan Bank, Ltd. (Matsuzaka, Mie Prefecture); The Tajima Bank, Ltd. (Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture); North Pacific Bank, Ltd. (Sapporo); The Michinoku Bank, Ltd. (Aomori); The Iyo Bank, Ltd. (Matsuyama); Bank of The Ryukyus, Ltd. (Naha); and Japan Post Bank Co., Ltd. (Tokyo)

    (Japanese original by Atsuko Motohashi, Business News Department)

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