Crimes by Anonymous, Fluid Groups: Groups Connected via Social Media Pose Threat to Society

This is an era where people who have never met one another connect via social media and form criminal groups. Police should do their utmost to investigate, clarify the situation and uncover crimes by these groups to dispel social anxiety.

The Osaka prefectural police recently arrested 13 men, including the head of a company in Toyama, for alleged involvement in laundering cash taken in special fraud cases. The amount of money laundered is believed to total at least ¥70 billion.

The men recruited potential collaborators on social media and paid them to open about 4,000 corporate accounts at financial institutions. They allegedly transferred funds from one account to another so the money would not be identified as criminal gains.

Criminal groups in which members are linked by social media and that repeatedly form to commit crimes and then disperse have been defined by police as “tokuryu,” or anonymous and fluid criminal groups. In the latest case, one such group was formed that included collaborators in the general public. The arrested men are probably just a portion of the group.

Tokuryu groups also recruit people on social media for “dark part-time jobs” in which those recruited carry out robberies or fraud. These groups function by dividing up their work, undoubtedly with the aim of preventing an investigation from reaching the main culprit giving the orders, even if those who carried out crimes are arrested.

There are many young people who casually respond to such recruitments out of a desire for money, and this is believed to be a factor behind the expansion of tokuryu groups. The spread of criminal groups whose natures are difficult to grasp leads to a more anxious society. This is an extremely serious situation.

Two years ago, the prefectural police uncovered a case of illicit solicitation by an online casino. The investigation into the case found that the account used to transfer the money from the crime was managed by men arrested in the latest case. It can be said that persistent investigation has led to finding clues for another crime.

Some involved were based in Japan and abroad and stayed in contact with one another via an app with highly confidential messaging. The police should work with private companies to analyze the men’s smartphones and investigate how the funds were transferred. It will also be important to strengthen cooperation with overseas investigative agencies.

Financially tracking down criminal groups is also crucial. To that end, it is imperative to prevent them from laundering money and using their criminal earnings.

Limits on money transfers are usually set high for corporate accounts, and there are many large transactions, making it difficult to detect fraud. If there are suspicious accounts that repeatedly show withdrawals and deposits of large sums of money, financial institutions should promptly check the transactions and the business activities linked to the accounts. The government should also work to provide more instruction to financial institutions.

Casually accepting offers on social media simply for a reward can lead to irreversible consequences. People need to know that there is no such thing as easy money.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 3, 2024)