SAPPORO – A series of fraud cases have been observed across Japan in which crooks have used dating apps to defraud people after convincing them to invest in virtual currencies.
Such cases are believed to have arisen amid an increase in online dating, as the spread of coronavirus infections has resulted in fewer face-to-face encounters. As virtual currency transactions remain difficult to trace, related parties call for caution.
Hokkaido Prefecture Police encountered the first such fraud case in March this year. According to the force’s No.2 Investigative Division, nine men and women between the ages of 30 and 60 have been victims of such scams since March, with the total loss amount exceeding 100 million yen (about $ 888,500). In five of these cases, a dating app was used.
The tactics used in each case were surprisingly similar. Non-Japanese men and women claiming to live in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, speaking either English or broken Japanese, spoke to the victims through direct messages. It is said that in fraud schemes involving dating apps, there are instances where scammers not only arouse romantic feelings in their victims, but listen to their concerns to gain trust. They then try to get the victims to hand over money which they believe will be used to invest in virtual currencies, under the pretext that they can easily earn money through such activities.
At first, the victims are persuaded to buy around 200,000 yen in a virtual currency such as Bitcoin, and the fraud group, using what is believed to be a bogus investment site, gives the impression that the person made a profit of about 30-. 40%. This is repeated several times and the amount of investment is gradually increased. But when victims say they want to convert their investment back to cash, they are told that in order to withdraw the money, a big investment is needed, and the crooks ask for an additional 1 million to 2 million yen. Eventually, they sever contact with the victim.
An investigative source commented: “Even at the stage where people go to the police, some victims do not realize that they have been swindled. Presumably, when you show people that they are making a small profit, they believe it.
(Japanese original by Yui Takahashi, Hokkaido News Department)