The Chinese government has detained several dozen Japanese citizens as part of an investigation into a phone fraud ring that has been targeting elderly victims in Japan.
The arrests reportedly occurred in late June and are connected to the problem of phone scams that prey on senior citizens looking for easy cash. Similar to phone fraud schemes common in the United States, the ones targeting Japanese victims come from callers who pretend to be a victim’s child or grandchild and claim to be in some dire situation that requires cash immediately. The scam is related to the infamous “trapped in London” scheme that involves callers begging for cash because they’re stranded in the U.K. for some reason.
Japanese officials said the arrests were connected to a fraud scheme.
“We were informed that local authorities notified Japanese consulate-general in Guangzhou on July 3 that they had taken 35 Japanese nationals into criminal custody on suspicion of fraud,” an anonymous foreign ministry official said to Reuters.
This type of phone fraud has been on the rise around the world. Senior citizens are frequent victims of many phone scams, especially those that involve family members in need or potential problems with their bank accounts. One common scheme that targets the elderly involves callers telling victims that there is a problem with their bank account and they need to transfer money right away to another account while the investigation is going on. The new account, of course, is controlled by the scammers, and the victims lose their money immediately if they transfer it.
Scammers also frequently target senior citizens with the IRS phone fraud scheme that threatens jail time for unpaid taxes. Authorities in the U.S. and India broke up a massive phone fraud ring that was running this scam last year.
“We are extremely vigilant when the names of U.S. government agencies are used to perpetuate fraud for the purpose of victimizing so many innocent American citizens,” Kenneth Magidson, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, said in a statement at the time of the indictments.