Scams in Japan: Shady part-time jobs that promise easy money

Some foreign residents in Japan are being deceived into committing illegal acts. They get involved in what appear to be easy, high-paying activities on social media that can lead to arrest and potentially deportation.

This is the second installment of an NHK World series on crime prevention with a warning about what to avoid.

*Click here to read the first installment:
Scams in Japan: Protect yourself from fraud (May 23, 2024)

Selling bank books and cash cards

Nichietsu Tomoiki Shienkai, a non-profit organization supporting Vietnamese living in Japan, says it often hears about people selling their bank books and cards for cash before returning to their home country.

Posts seeking to buy such items, even specifying certain banks by name, have appeared on social media platforms used by many Vietnamese residents.

Tokyo police warn that it is illegal to sell bank accounts. The ones that do change hands are often used for fraud.

In one case in May 2022, police say that two Vietnamese men in their 30s living in Tokyo and Mie Prefecture got another Vietnamese man living in Osaka Prefecture to send his cash card to them in exchange for money. All three were arrested for suspected violation of the Act on Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds.

Illegal smartphone contracts

Police are warning people never to accept a job that involves making an illegal smartphone contract. Social media posts try to lure foreigners into procuring the phones or SIM cards in order to sell them on.

Sometimes a crime group member accompanies the purchaser to the store to receive the device as soon as the contract is made. The purchaser remains responsible for continuing to pay for the phone and usage fees.

In January this year, a Filipino woman in her 40s was arrested on suspicion of fraud. Police say she signed contracts to buy new smartphones at an electrical appliance store and a mobile phone store in Tokyo. They allege that she handed them over to a crime group, which then used the SIM cards for fraudulent electronic payments.

Police say the woman had responded to a post on social media offering compensation of about 100,000 yen for every smartphone purchase.

Receiving packages

Another common deception involves receiving payment simply for forwarding or receiving packages. Police say many people are taking part without suspecting they are potential accomplices to crime.

Authorities say the packages contain such items as drugs, cash and goods fraudulently purchased online. They warn that receiving or forwarding such items is illegal, and could lead to charges including theft. Entering an empty house to receive a package could also lead to an additional trespassing charge.

Purchasing agents

Police also cite cases of foreign residents lured by acquaintances promising compensation just to do shopping for them. They say many foreigners have been solicited for such activities through social media and word of mouth. They warn people should not accept a dubious offer just because it comes from someone from their country, or because their friends have also done it.

A Chinese man in his 20s was arrested in November 2022 on charges of defrauding a cosmetics store in Tokyo of beauty serum and other products worth some 130,000 yen (about 830 dollars) through an unauthorized use of a railway firm’s reward point program.

Police say the man was approached at a karaoke parlor by another Chinese man with an offer of an easy part-time job as a purchasing agent. He used someone else’s ID and password provided to him, and showed a bar code to make purchases with the points. He reportedly received 40,000 yen (about 260 dollars).

Online sales

Social media posts are offering "high pay just for selling products online," or claiming "you will be paid just for lending use of your flea market site account." Many people do not know that doing so could make them criminally responsible for selling counterfeit brand items or illegally procured goods.

In August 2023, Osaka police arrested a Chinese man in his 30s suspected of violating the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Act. Police say the man was part of a criminal group selling fake cosmetics, and he had been storing 148 counterfeit products. They say the group was soliciting people on a Chinese social network site to send the items or list them on a shopping site.

Osaka police investigating the case have also arrested two other Chinese men over selling counterfeit products.

Foreign residents are urged to be wary of promises of "easy cash" or assurances that activities are "not illegal." They are advised to contact their local police with any problems or concerns.