The base for a group of people involved in a Chinese version of a bank transfer scam has been found in Japan. The National Police Agency informed the Chinese Public Security Ministry of the discovery during a regular consultation meeting held in January, according to sources.
The financial damage from bank transfer scams or wire scams in China amounts to 22.2 billion yuan (about ¥360 billion) a year, about 7.5 times the damage in Japan, according to Chinese authorities. The scam method is very similar to that in Japan, prompting suspicion that those associated with Japanese bank transfer scam groups spread the method to China. The NPA intends to increase its vigilance in cooperation with Chinese authorities.
According to investigative sources, the discovered base was located in a condominium in Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture. In mid-November last year, a resident of the condominium called police to report that suspicious foreigners had been witnessed entering and leaving the building. When police officers arrived at the site, about 30 men and women from Taiwan were found in one unit. There were many cell phones inside the unit and there was also traces of a large volume of documents shredded in a shredder. Data of documents in Chinese believed to be demand letters used for fraud were also found.
About a dozen of the people found in the unit admitted when questioned by the Fukuoka prefectural police on a voluntary basis that they were making international phone calls from the unit to China attempting to conduct bank transfer scams. They said they applied to job openings posted in a Taiwan newspaper and entered Japan as tourists. As they explained, the cell phones contained the history of outgoing calls directed at China.
The prefectural police investigated the case as a suspected bank transfer scam targeting elderly people and others in China. However, the police faced difficulties in investigations as they could not find sufficient evidence regarding victims in China. No illegalities were found in passports held by the people found in the condominium unit. These people have already left Japan, the sources said.
Other bases of groups involved in bank transfer scams targeting China have also been found in places including Spain, Malaysia and Kenya. In these cases, a number of people from China and Taiwan have been either arrested or deported. They apparently avoided China as public security authorities there maintain strict surveillance. They instead moved their bases to overseas locations where they can easily rent condominiums and obtain cell phones.
In the regular consultation meeting with the Chinese Public Security Ministry in January, the NPA informed Chinese officials of the base in Fukuoka Prefecture and discussed how to handle the case. If requested by China, the NPA will formally provide such information as phone numbers of the victims and the identities of members of the Taiwan group via Interpol.
The number of bank transfer scams has been rapidly growing in China, with about 600,000 cases having occurred in 2015, about 43 times higher than in Japan.
A typical example is the “It’s me” fraud, where swindlers pretend to be a son or relative in financial dire straits, saying such things as, “I caused financial losses at work,” and “A woman I had an affair with got pregnant.” In addition, there are reportedly many cases where swindlers pretend to be an airline company employee, saying, “Your flight has been canceled, so please make a reservation for another flight.”
“The method is very similar to the one used by Japanese groups,” a senior Japanese investigative official said. “It is possible that the method was taught by Japanese scam group members.”