A man calling himself "Detective Yuichi Katagiri" - The latest method of special smartphone fraud January 30th 18:00

The “entrance” to special fraud is the landline phone. We tend to think that the elderly and wealthy people are targeted, but new types of special scams using smartphones are occurring one after another.

The story of a man in his 30s living in Aichi Prefecture who almost fell victim to the attack, and learns about its clever tactics.

(NHK Nagoya Bureau Reporters Moe Sasaki and Shintaro Toyoshima)

The trigger was a smartphone

In the fall of 2023, Mr. Higashi (30s, pseudonym), an office worker living in Aichi Prefecture, received a phone call on his smartphone.

The person on the other end introduced himself as ``Tsuyoshi Yamakawa of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications,'' and suddenly spoke as follows.

Yamakawa from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and

Communications: ``The mobile phone contracted in your name at ○-○-○ (real address), Toyohira-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido, is being used for investment fraud and fictitious billing.If you don't remember it, , please contact Toyohira Police Station within two hours and file a report. I will now transfer your call to the police."

At the time, Mr. Higashi had problems to solve both at work and at home, and he didn't have the composure to do so. It was something I had never heard before, but that's why I wanted to get this over with quickly, so I continued the call.

"Detective Yuichi Katagiri"

The person who answered the forwarded call was a person who introduced himself as ``Yuichi Katagiri, a detective at Hokkaido Police Toyohira Police Station.''

Mr. Azuma was a little relieved by his calm tone and title of police officer. He says that he suddenly started to feel like relying on him.

Detective Katagiri asks you to come to Toyohira Police Station within two hours and file a damage report. Mr. Azuma told him that he could not go because he lived far away, but Detective Katagiri apparently explained that he could file a complaint even if he was at home.

Detective Katagiri

: ``Then we will take a ``home report.'' We will record it, so please go to a quiet space.''

Mr. Higashi moved to an empty office room and gave his name, date of birth, and address as he was asked.

When he complains that he has no recollection of a cell phone in his name being misused, Detective Katagiri informs him that he is under further suspicion.

Detective Katagiri

: ``I searched your name in the police database and found that you are an important reference in a special crime.This crime was committed by a group whose main perpetrator was the branch manager of ○○ bank ○○ branch (actual). The amount of damage reached 30 billion yen.The group was arrested, and among the seized items was a cash card in your name. % cash back.''Are you selling cash cards?''

Exchange on LINE

``Detective Katagiri'' has said that he would like to communicate using the communication app ``LINE'' as he moves forward with his investigation.

Mr. Higashi, who uses LINE on a daily basis, responded without any discomfort. After that, we will continue to communicate using LINE's message and call functions.

``Detective Katagiri'' asked me not to tell anyone about this because it was a serious incident, and sent me the data of a document called ``Confidentiality Agreement.''

The document stated that the information should not be disclosed until the investigation was completed, and it also contained what appeared to be a seal of approval from an executive. When Azuma looks up the name on the seal on the Internet, it matches a real person, and Azuma becomes even more convinced.

Next, I was sent a ``List of Special Crimes Criminals''. There were photos of 60 people along with their numbers.

Detective Katagiri asks if there is anyone you recognize. Azuma-san replies, "No," but he doesn't believe me.

Mr. Higashi was questioned repeatedly and treated as a criminal. Due to a ``non-disclosure agreement,'' he was unable to talk to anyone and was forced into a mental state.

"I'll issue an arrest warrant."

Furthermore, Detective Katagiri asked him to send a list of his assets, including bank accounts, stocks, and real estate, in order to check for cashbacks from criminal groups.

Although Mr. Higashi told them about his stocks, he was reluctant to share his bank account details on LINE. So he books a plane ticket to Hokkaido and tells Detective Katagiri that he wants to meet him in person and talk to him.

Then, the other person's attitude changes completely.

Detective Katagiri

: ``We signed confidentiality agreements with everyone involved in the case, including you, but several people broke the agreement, so we're issuing arrest warrants for everyone at once.''

``Detective Katagiri'' threatened him and told him that if he submitted a list of his assets, he would avoid arrest.

"If you send us the 'asset list', we can apply 'priority investigation' to proceed with the investigation without having your account frozen or being detained, as you are cooperative with the investigation and there is no risk of flight."

Mr. Higashi began to think, ``If I were arrested, it would cause trouble for my family and company,'' and ``Wouldn't it be more peaceful if I just gave out my bank account information?'' I have told them the balance of my deposit.

Mr. Higashi lost about 5 kilograms due to stress. Up until now, I hadn't been able to talk to anyone about it, but when my boss, who couldn't bear to see it, approached me, I confessed everything. It's been a week since I started communicating with Detective Katagiri.

There is no Detective Katagiri! ?

Mr. Higashi finally realized that he had been deceived after the lawyers he went to consult with his boss pointed out that it was a scam.

Although he gave his bank account information to the other party, he did not give out his PIN number, so he was able to avoid being a victim.

Mr. Higashi explained to Detective Katagiri that he would not be able to contact him for a while due to his overseas business trip. He blocked all of my LINE accounts and ended our relationship.

After that, Mr. Azuma's boss asked the Toyohira Police Station if Detective Katagiri really existed...

Responding police officer

: ``Again? Detective Katagiri isn't at Toyohira Police Station. It's a scam. We're being deceived.''

why didn't you notice

Mr. Higashi believed the story of Detective Katagiri this time. Looking back, he recalls that there were many clever ways to avoid arousing suspicion.

Mr. Higashi

: ``I think it's clever to use a public institution that has social credibility.In this case, the other party was claiming to be the police, so I thought it would be more complicated if I consulted the police.'' .I think it's clever how he successfully brainwashes the other person using legal language that he's not used to using on a daily basis.I think he was somehow confident that he wouldn't be fooled, so maybe that's why he did the bad thing.''

He is said to have grown frustrated by the despicable tactics of keeping him quiet so that he could not talk to anyone about it, and then keeping him mentally under pressure for a long period of time.

``60% to 70% of the reason I couldn't talk to people about it was because I had to abide by the confidentiality agreement.The remaining 30% was because I had trust issues with myself, and I didn't want to involve my family, relatives, or friends.'' I feel very pathetic and regretful about myself.''

Similar techniques are occurring one after another across the country

As Police Officer Toyohira said, "It's happening again!" Recently, there has been a spate of scams targeting smartphones.

According to a National Police Agency summary from January 2023 to the end of November 2023, there were 1,160 cases nationwide where a criminal targeted a mobile phone as the first contact.

In Aichi Prefecture, where Mr. Higashi lives, the first case of fraud was confirmed in October 2023, using a technique that directed people from their phones to communication apps such as LINE.

According to Aichi Prefectural Police, 11 people were victimized over the next three months and were defrauded of more than 170 million yen.

Looking at each method in detail, we find that, like Mr. Higashi, a person pretending to be a Hokkaido police officer told him, ``When we caught a fraud group, your bankbook was found,'' and a person pretending to be a prosecutor told him, `` In some cases, they were cornered and told that in order to be subject to a ``priority investigation'' that would prevent them from being arrested, they needed ``bail deposits,'' and were given soft words.

It is said that there were cases in which someone pretending to be a police officer sent a photo of their police notebook on LINE in order to make the other party believe it.

Victims span a wide range of generations, from teenagers to those in their 80s, and it is notable that they use LINE and other tools to defraud money from younger generations, in addition to the elderly, who have been the main target so far.

A police officer involved in countermeasures and investigations of special fraud said, ``Special fraud targeting landline telephones remains the mainstream, but with fewer people owning landline phones, smartphones may be a new target. ``The phone conversation, combined with the exchange of plausible data via LINE, could have the effect of tricking the suspect into believing that he is a real police officer.''

What are the points to avoid being deceived?

What could I have done to avoid being fooled in this case? There are several points.

▼Point 1: Don't answer calls from unknown numbers! Be especially wary of overseas numbers.A

call from someone claiming to be an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Mr. Higashi said that he answered the call without checking the number, but when he checked later, he found out that the number actually started with the American country code "+1". Calling a number starting with a foreign country code is a common tactic used by scam groups to avoid police investigation. Always check the number before answering the phone, and avoid answering if you don't recognize the number.

▼Point 2: Check directly with the actual institution!

Fraudsters use the polite tone of a government official or salesman to deceive us. Even if the person on the other end claims to be from the police or the government, it is important to contact the actual agency directly and not to judge the truth over the phone.

▼Point 3: Police never communicate investigation information on SNS!

For real police officers, investigative information is vital. We will never send investigation-related materials on SNS such as LINE, or tell the person we are investigating that an arrest warrant has been issued.

▼Point 4: If you feel suspicious or have any questions about personal information or money, consult us immediately!

If a conversation over the phone or on SNS involves personal information or money, you should suspect fraud and immediately contact the police, local government, or someone close to you.

Need to know the tricks

Now that so many people have smartphones, anyone can be targeted by special scams, and I am acutely aware that they have become so sophisticated that they are difficult to spot.

As a first step in preventing damage, it is necessary to be aware that this is not a one-off incident and to be aware of these techniques in advance.

(Scheduled to be broadcast on “Marutto!” on February 2nd)

Nagoya Broadcasting Station reporter

Moe Sasaki Joined

the station in 2019

After working in Aichi Prefectural Police, in charge of prefectural government from 2022

Nagoya Broadcasting Station reporter

Shintaro Toyoshima Joined

the station in 2019

After working at the Yokohama bureau and Odawara bureau, from August 2022

he was in charge of Nagoya city government at the Nagoya bureau, and currently covers incidents and accidents.