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32 cases of abuse of financial institution apps netted $95,000: Japan police report

The Central Government Building No. 2, which houses the National Police Agency, is seen in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- The National Police Agency (NPA) revealed on Oct. 1 that it confirmed 32 cases in which fraudsters withdrew cash by abusing official smartphone apps of financial institutions between June and July, netting a total of some 10 million yen (about $95,000).

    Those apps are convenient for customers as they enable cash withdrawals at automated teller machines without cash cards. People can download the apps on their smartphones and activate them by entering personal information such as bank account numbers. If users scan QR codes displayed on the ATM screens and enter a PIN, they can withdraw cash without inserting cards. In the 32 cases, however, customers had their money withdrawn from their accounts without their knowledge.

    The app abuse cases began to be reported in June, when there were five cases with a total of some 600,000 yen (about $5,700) in damage. In July, the number of such cases spiked to 27, resulting in a total of roughly 10 million yen being stolen. There were no reports of similar crimes in August.

    While two financial institutions were targeted in those cases, the NPA has not disclosed their names. The NPA has notified the Financial Services Agency of those cases and is on guard against the new modus operandi.

    The personal information necessary to activate the apps varies depending on financial institutions that released the apps. As the victims in the 32 cases did not report having been targeted in phishing scams -- in which people are duped into entering personal information via text-messaging and other services on their phones -- prior to the app abuse cases, it remains unclear how their personal info had been leaked before their money was stolen.

    (Japanese original by Noritake Machida, City News Department)

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