Social Media Used to Recruit Drug Smugglers, Cyber Criminals

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The National Police Agency

The gig economy has a nefarious counterpart in a gig underworld where online criminal recruiters offer “dark” part-time jobs such as robbery, fraud, drug smuggling and cyber crimes, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey of police nationwide.

Police are stepping up crackdowns, but countermeasures have not kept pace.

Postings recruit people for a “high-paying job,” or a “job paid on the same day,” and social media platforms have often been used by special fraud groups to recruit street-level members.

In late January, The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed the police headquarters of 47 prefectures to ask if any cases of online criminal recruitment other than for special fraud had been reported since last year, and learned that such crimes had been found in 13 prefectures. Among them were the nationwide string of robberies allegedly involving the figure known as “Luffy.”

The Aichi prefectural police arrested a 38-year-old restaurant employee of Taito Ward, Tokyo, in January on suspicion of fraud and other offenses in connection with an illegal remittance via online banking. The man allegedly responded to a social media post offering “a plum job” and was instructed to tell a Tokyo cell phone store a lie that he had lost his cell phone to receive a SIM card reissued under someone else’s name. The SIM card was then misused for illegal money transfers, and the man received 5% of the amount transferred, or about ¥300,000, as a reward.

The Ehime prefectural police arrested a 38-year-old female office clerk in Matsuyama in July on suspicion of violating the Stimulant Drugs Control Law by smuggling 1.3 kilograms of a stimulant drug with a street value of about ¥75 million. The woman, who was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years, was transporting the stimulant after responding to a job offer on social media stating that ¥30,000 would be paid for receiving a package containing antiques and snacks.

In a case of fraudulent account openings detected by the Metropolitan Police Department last November, 18 people — including a 22-year-old Sapporo company employee who was indicted on a fraud charge — opened bank accounts for the purpose of reselling them. The accounts may have been misused in another fraud case, the MPD said.

Police are posting replies to social media accounts that offer “dark” jobs, warning potential recruits that taking such work may “ruin your life.” But there is seemingly no end to cases in which financially struggling young people respond to such offers.

In March, the National Police Agency will add online postings that solicit robbery and other crimes to a list of online content that is subject to takedown requests.