Find Ways to Stop Crime Groups from Establishing Bases Overseas

An increasing number of incidents have occurred in which fraud groups establish bases overseas and target people living in Japan. Japanese police must deepen cooperation with overseas investigative organizations and strengthen their exposing of these groups.

Nineteen men were arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department as they had allegedly sent short text messages from a resort hotel in Cambodia to the mobile phone of a woman living in Tokyo, lying to her that she had unpaid charges for a payment site and swindling her out of ¥250,000 in electronic money.

In the hotel rooms they had used, 60 smartphones, computers and manuals containing fraudulent tactics were found.

The alleged scam group had probably set up base overseas to evade exposure and commit organized crimes. There must have been other victims. The police should hurry to uncover the entire picture.

Southeast Asia is considered an easy place for scammers to operate because of the small time difference with Japan and the low cost of living there. In 2019, members of scam groups were rounded up in Thailand and the Philippines.

In past cases, the perpetrators were people who applied for high-paying “dark” part-time jobs at resorts using the internet, or people with multiple debts who were recruited through loan sharks.

Once people are involved with a scam group, they are detained at the group’s base and ordered to continue making fraudulent phone calls. They were reportedly attacked violently by their superiors if they failed to meet their quotas, and they could not escape because their passports had been taken away.

If people are lured by such sweet words as “high income” and “overseas,” and easily become involved in scams, they will not be able to leave crime groups and will face heavy criminal penalties. It is important to keep in mind that the cost is high.

If there is suspicious behavior, such as a large number of Japanese staying at a hotel for a long period of time and not going out, close cooperation with local authorities is essential so that Japan’s investigative authorities can get such information from the local side and other assistance.

In the Cambodia case, it was not cash that was swindled, but electronic money. Since there is no need for a “receiver” to meet with the victims in person to receive cash or other valuable items, electronic money is increasingly being used for fraudulent purposes.

The group used IP phones using an internet connection to communicate with the Tokyo woman, and the phone numbers began with “03” or “06” area codes, for example. The aim was probably to mislead the victim to make her believe that she was talking to employees in charge at Japanese companies.

Electronic money and IP phone operators must take seriously the fact that their instruments are being abused for crimes. It has also been pointed out that IP phone operators do not thoroughly verify even personal identification of customers at the time of contract. It is essential to take measures to prevent such tools from being used for criminal purposes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2023)