Beware of suspicious offers to make easy money

Some foreign residents of Japan are tricked into committing illegal acts. They become involved in seemingly easy, high-paying social media activities that can lead to arrest and possible 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 part:
Scams in Japan: Protect yourself from fraud (May 23, 2024)

Sale of passbooks and payment cards

Nichietsu Tomoiki Shienkai, a nonprofit that supports Vietnamese residents in Japan, said she often hears of people selling their passbooks and cards for cash before returning to their home countries.

Social media platforms used by many Vietnamese residents have seen posts attempting to purchase such items, even naming certain banks.

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

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

Illegal smartphone contracts

The police warn people never to accept a job that involves an illegal smartphone contract. Posts on social media try to entice foreigners to purchase the phones or SIM cards to resell.

Sometimes a member of the crime group accompanies the buyer to the store to receive the device once the contract has been concluded. The buyer remains responsible for continuing to pay telephone and usage charges.

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 claim she handed them over to a criminal group, who then used the SIM cards for fraudulent electronic payments.

Police say the woman responded to a social media post offering a reward of about 100,000 yen for each smartphone purchase.

Receive packages

Another common deception is receiving payments for forwarding or receiving packages. According to police, many people participate without suspecting that they may be complicit in the crime.

Authorities say the packages contained drugs, cash and goods fraudulently purchased online. They warn that receiving or forwarding such items is illegal and could result in charges, including theft. Entering an empty home to receive a package can also result in additional trespassing charges.

Purchasing agents

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

A Chinese man in his 20s was arrested in November 2022 on charges of defrauding a Tokyo cosmetics store of beauty serum and other products worth about 130,000 yen (about US$830) through unauthorized use of a railway company’s rewards points program.

Police say the man was approached at a karaoke parlor by another Chinese man with the 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 barcode to make purchases with the points. He reportedly received 40,000 yen (about $260).

Online sales

Social media posts offer “high rewards just for selling products online,” or claim that “you only get paid for borrowing your flea market site account.” Many people do not know that this could make them criminally responsible for selling counterfeit branded or illegally obtained 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 counterfeit cosmetics and had stockpiled 148 counterfeit products. They say the group asked people on a Chinese social networking site to ship the items or post them on a retail site.

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

Foreign residents are urged to be wary of promises of “easy money” or assurances that activities are “not illegal.” They are advised to contact local police if they have any problems or concerns.

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