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Japanese police thank convenience store worker for helping woman avoid fraud

Kusatsu Police Station chief Yutaka Kawaguchi, right, is seen after awarding Takeshi Ogura with a letter of thanks for helping a convenience store customer avoid being swindled, on Feb. 14, 2022, at Kusatsu Police Station in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture. (Mainichi/Kengo Suga)

KUSATSU, Shiga -- An employee at a convenience store in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, received a letter of thanks from local police on Feb. 14 after he helped stop a resident from being taken in by swindlers.

    Takeshi Ogura, a 26-year-old resident of the prefectural city of Ritto, works part time at a FamilyMart convenience store branch near JR Kusatsu Station. He was given the certificate of thanks by the Shiga Prefectural Police's Kusatsu Police Station on Feb. 14 for helping a local woman avoid falling victim to "support fraud."

    In support fraud, perpetrators get a message to appear on a user's computer, mobile phone or other electronic device claiming it has been "infected with a virus." They then seek payment from the victim to restore their electronic device, among other fictitious services.

    According to the police station, at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 22, a Kusatsu resident in her 50s got a "virus infection" warning on her computer. She called the number on the alert, and was instructed to buy 50,000 yen worth (about $434) of electronic money from the convenience store where Ogura works. After complying with the instructions, she was told at about 4 a.m. to change the funds to a different electronic money format, and she went back to the store. Ogura suspected something was wrong, and said to her, "It's fraud, isn't it?" After convincing her, he called police.

    In 2021, there were 23 support fraud cases recorded in Shiga Prefecture -- nine more than in 2020. The prefectural police also received 27 consultations regarding the crime in 2021, an increase of 21 over the previous year. Many victims are reportedly in their 40s to 60s.

    Kusatsu Police Station chief Yutaka Kawaguchi expressed gratitude to Ogura, saying, "A crime was prevented thanks to the fact you alerted her without hesitation." Ogura said that he wants to "share information with other shop staff, and work as a store toward stopping people being victims of fraud."

    (Japanese original by Kengo Suga, Otsu Bureau)

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