45.5 Billion Yen Stolen in Investment, Romance Scams in Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The National Police Agency

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The amount of money stolen in social media-based investment fraud and romance scam cases in Japan in 2023 totaled ¥45.52 billion, National Police Agency data showed Thursday.

The figure was higher than ¥44.12 billion stolen in remittance and other special fraud cases, according to the data.

The NPA conducted its first survey on social media-linked investment frauds and romance scams after the amount of damage from such cases surged last year. In romance scams, perpetrators exploit individuals emotionally to trick them into sending money.

The NPA has called on prefectural police departments across the country to strongly promote comprehensive measures to prevent further damage.

In 2023, the amount of money stolen in investment frauds using social media stood at ¥27.79 billion in 2,271 cases reported to police, and damage from romance scams came to ¥17.73 billion in 1,575 cases.

While the combined number of these cases was far below the 19,033 special fraud cases reported last year, the total amount of damage from the investment and romance scam cases was higher than that from special fraud cases, with the average amount of damage per case exceeding ¥10 million.

The highest amount of damage was about ¥340 million for an investment fraud case and ¥360 million for a romance scam case.

Half of the victims were in their 50s and 60s for men and in their 40s and 50s for women.

In romance scams, perpetrators usually use social media first to contact targets, spend a long time building relationships with the victims and repeatedly swindle money from them.

A man in his 70s in Tokushima Prefecture, western Japan, lost ¥245 million in an investment fraud case, in which a woman he got to know on Facebook told him that there is a method of asset management highly likely to return profits.

The perpetrator told him through social media that she has an uncle who is an expert and that if the man raises the transaction amount, he could get even more profits. He purchased crypto assets more than 20 times but could not cash them in.

A resident in her 40s in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, was swindled out of about ¥5 million in a romance scam in which a man claiming to be a South Korean national living in Britain promised to marry her.

She was told by the man that he needed money for his work and that if she does not pay the money for him, police will catch him. She later transferred funds to his bank account five times.

In romance scam cases, 86 pct of the damage was incurred by victims eventually cheated under the guise of investment, such as through futures trading for increasing living expenses.