Japan police identify record number of 'special fraud' suspects operating abroad

Japan's National Police Agency says it identified a record 69 "special fraud" suspects operating overseas in 2023. The term refers to methods of fraud that use unsolicited phone calls and other communication tools.

In its annual crime situation report, the agency said it confirmed 19,033 cases of special fraud last year. The figure increased by 1,463 from 2022, and is the highest in 15 years.

The damage from such fraud amounted to about 44.12 billion yen, or nearly 300 million dollars. This is about 47 million dollars more than in 2022.

Police identified 2,499 suspects in connection with special fraud. They say 69 of them were based overseas in countries including the Philippines and Cambodia.

Billing fraud accounted for the largest number of cases at 5,136. The amount of damage exceeded 13.8 billion yen, or about 93 million dollars.

Police say there was a surge in technical support fraud. The scammers use fake warnings that computers have been infected with a virus to steal cash or electronic money from victims.

The National Police Agency plans to set up a new investigation team at police departments nationwide in April to promote a more comprehensive crackdown on special fraud. Specially enforced teams will be set up, mainly in prefectures with major cities.