Japanese police say damage from "special fraud" last year topped 37 billion yen, or about 267 million dollars, for the first annual increase in eight years. The term refers to scams to defraud strangers via unsolicited phone calls or other means.
Data from the National Police Agency show that the total amount of damage for 2022 rose 31 percent in yen terms from the previous year. The number of cases was 17,570 -- up 3,000, or 21 percent.
Scams involving impersonating close relatives accounted for more than half of the cases, at about 9,700. It was followed by refund fraud at about 4,600 and billing fraud at around 2,900.
More than 120,000 phone calls are suspected to have been made by criminals to find out the state of assets before targeting victims. That's about 10,000 calls a month.
The number of people identified as possibly involved in special fraud was 2,458, up 84 from a year before.
But many were lower-ranking members of criminal groups, with only 41, or 1.7 percent, in leading roles.
Some members of criminal groups were recruited on social media.
The police agency plans to work with the private sector, including financial institutions and telecommunications operators, to tackle special fraud cases.