【Aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan】No.51: Fraud Targeting the Elderly

In this column series, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Research Director at CIGS introduces the latest information about aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan with data of international comparison.

Cases of fraud that target vulnerable elderly persons are becoming a significant social problem. These crimes can take various forms, but two are typical. The first, "It's Me, Fraud" is an attempt to extract money from people over the telephone. For example, a criminal may telephone an elderly woman posing as her son and make a plea such as "I need money right away." He may say he needs the money to pay a bill or traffic fine or to repay a debt. "Refund Money Fraud" involves a perpetrator who contacts an elderly victim, also by phone, and identifies himself as a public official. He then hints at a tax or medical refund, and at that point, directs the victim to an ATM, suggesting that a transfer of money to the perpetrator's account is necessary to obtain the refund. Elderly people with declining judgment may be easily deceived by such a simple trick.

Due to the frequency of these kinds of crimes, the police have worked hard to educate potential victims. Banks also have warned the elderly to be cautious about withdrawing cash from ATMs. Today, banks actually set limits on ATM cash withdrawals. Nonetheless, the number of fraud cases continues to rise, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Number of fraud cases targeting the elderly and the amount of damages


(Source)National Police Agency

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