Damage from Fraud Increases: Malicious Scam Groups Take Advantage of Aging Society

Fraud tactics targeting the elderly are becoming more diverse and sophisticated. Scams in which the perpetrators falsely claim that targeted persons have received the right to be admitted into a nursing home are also becoming prevalent. Relevant authorities should more strongly raise the alert about these types of fraud.

Saitama and eight other prefectural police this month arrested 25 men who were suspected of defrauding a woman in her 70s in Sapporo of ¥500,000, among other charges.

They allegedly made fraudulent calls to the woman and told her that she had won the right to move into a nursing home. When she refused to move in, they then told her that someone else had been selected to move in and that this would constitute the crime of name lending, forcing her to send money in the name of a settlement fee.

The Japanese group was based in Cambodia and allegedly took turns calling the woman, falsely claiming to be nursing home employees or lawyers.

In such theatrical fraud involving a variety of characters, victims who initially believe the scam to be a lie are led to believe it is true as they talk to multiple scammers. This type of damage has been confirmed in various parts of the country, with some individuals swindled out of tens of millions of yen alone.

Whether it is possible to move into a nursing home is an issue of great interest to the elderly. Many of them may be tempted to listen to such stories from scammers.

It is important for the police and consumer affairs centers to provide specific examples of fraudulent tactics and to inform people to suspect fraud if they are told that they have won the right to do something, even though they have no idea of the content.

Regarding fraud cases targeting the elderly, there is a wide range of tactics, such as those that claim unpaid fees or pretend to be procedures for refunds, besides those making claims about the right to move into a nursing home. According to the National Police Agency, the number of these special fraud cases increased to 17,000 last year, up 20% from a year earlier, and the figure is increasing this year as well.

Scams involving the right to move into a nursing home were more frequent around 2014 but then declined, yet have surged again since last year. Criminal groups tend to use the same methods they have employed in the past, looking for a time when people are less vigilant, so it is important to be aware of this type of fraud.

The majority of fraudulent calls are made to landline phones. It is believed this is partly because many of the subscribers are elderly and lists containing their addresses and phone numbers have been circulating.

In recent years, there are services that use artificial intelligence to analyze the contents of phone conversations and notify family members if fraud is suspected. Rather, changing phone numbers might be worth considering. It is hoped that each household will consider measures to protect themselves.

In the Cambodia case, Japanese prefectural police shared information and were able to uncover all the suspects at once, with the cooperation of local authorities. In recent years, it has become conspicuous that criminal organizations have been establishing their bases overseas. The best crime prevention measure is to strengthen cooperation between domestic and foreign authorities concerned and crack down on criminal groups.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 16, 2023)