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Elderly insurance saleswoman in Japan sold $18 million in fake plans to duped customers

The building housing a branch of Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Co. in Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture, is seen on Oct. 2, 2020. (Mainichi/Takatoshi Wakiyama)

SHUNAN, Yamaguchi -- A former Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Co. worker in her 80s in western Japan is suspected to have reaped as much as 1.9 billion yen (about $18 million) from selling bogus insurance plans to at least 21 clients, the firm said on Oct. 2.

    Dai-Ichi Life dismissed the woman in July, and Yamaguchi Prefectural Police's Shunan station is conducting an expedited investigation for fraud. Work to recover the money has also begun.

    According to the insurance company, the woman worked as a salesperson at a branch office of the company's west Japan marketing management department in Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Over 10 years ago, she began offering customers in the prefecture a non-existent "special plan" with higher interest rates. She would then draw up a direct "contract" with customers without getting them checked by the company, and collect the premiums.

    Almost all of the scheme's victims were customers who had known the woman for some time, and as proof that the premiums had been received, she would hand over documents including handwritten receipts. Dai-Ichi Life said that it has "yet to ascertain" how the funds she apparently amassed were used.

    The scheme was discovered in early June, after a customer approached the firm with questions about the "special" package they'd signed up for. The company dismissed her on July 3, and reported her to Shunan Police Station on July 31. On Oct. 2, the company established a task force to resolve the issue at its Tokyo head office. It is now working to understand all of what happened, and to confirm the entire amount taken. It has already begun apologizing to customers and returning their money.

    "We apologize deeply for the great amount of inconvenience and concern we have caused our customers and everyone connected to this case," Dai-Ichi Life said in a statement

    (Japanese original by Hiroki Hayashi, Yamaguchi Bureau, and Takatoshi Wakiyama, Shunan Bureau)

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