Japan: police to crack down on fake shopping sites

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Police crack down on fraudulent online shopping sites
The Yomiuri Shimbun
8:25 pm, December 21, 2017
A series of online shopping scams using fraudulent websites have been taking place.

The National Police Agency announced Thursday that 20 police departments nationwide had identified 43 people suspected of involvement in such scams through such acts as opening up bank accounts used for money transfers. They are suspected of having violated the Law on Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds or of having committed fraud.

The investigations were conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department as well as the Kanagawa, Osaka and Fukuoka prefectural police among others.

A computer program to identify fraudulent sites has been developed, and police authorities are taking a more stringent approach to these cases.

These fraudulent sites are designed to make customers think they are purchasing certain shopping items. But the customers never receive the items they paid for. According to the NPA and other sources, this type of fraud started to be reported in the early 2000s. Since around summer last year, a number of cases have involved tricking users of search engine into visiting fraudulent sites by forging regular websites.

The police investigations brought to light fraudulent sites that pretended to be selling such items as furniture, watches and bags. An automatic transfer system channeled victims to the fraudulent sites through a forged site for a clinic and others. When a customer searched for shopping items by using a search engine, the forged sites were shown at higher ranks in search results. NPA investigators believe this effect was achieved via search engine optimization practices.

On fraudulent sites, those items were advertised with such phrases as “deeply discounted.” Many of their domain names end with .top or .xyz. Damages incurred by these scams ranged from several thousand yen to tens of thousands of yen. A total of ¥240 million was transferred to 122 accounts.

From May through Thursday, police authorities took action on 43 men and women in their 20s to 60s whose names were registered for bank accounts used for money transfers. They had either been arrested or papers on them had been sent to prosecutors. They are suspected of giving the account numbers and passwords of accounts that they opened under their names to unidentified people for ¥30,000 to ¥60,000 from the end of last year through June this year.

In May, the Japan Cybercrime Control Center developed, jointly with the Aichi prefectural police, a program that can identify fraudulent sites. With this program, the center has identified about 20,000 fraudulent sites, including those found in the latest police investigations, and reported them to the NPA.
 
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