Tokyo, March 25 (Jiji Press)–Japanese police uncovered 45 criminal incidents in 2020 in which consumers fell victim to scams related to the novel coronavirus crisis, National Police Agency data showed Thursday.
The police arrested or took other necessary actions against 87 people and 13 corporations involved in the cases, including reselling face masks at excessively high prices, advertising unapproved drugs and illegal lending to cash-strapped businesses.
Of the 87 people, 25 were believed to have violated the emergency measures law for stabilizing living conditions of the public, which banned the resale of face masks and alcohol disinfectants at excessively high prices from March to August last year, when such products were in short supply.
Meanwhile, 28 people were suspected of breaching the pharmaceuticals and medical devices law, mainly by claiming in advertisements that drugs were effective against the novel coronavirus though they had not been approved as COVID-19 remedies.
The police found 23 people engaged in loan shark activities, such as lending at interest far exceeding the legal limit to restaurant owners and others struggling financially amid the crisis.
These cases included new methods including factoring, or the conversion of receivables such as the right to receive salaries into cash, and the use of social media.
The police cracked down on major scams, such as gathering investments by claiming high dividends and selling products through improper solicitation, that involved mail-order business operator Kefir Inc. and multilevel marketing company Japan Life Co. Both caused damages of over 200 billion yen.
The police gave a total of 11,822 consultations over malicious business practices, up 36 pct from the year before.
Of those that sought consultations, people in their 20s increased notably. The NPA believes that young people interested in investment and asset management are being targeted and plans to boost awareness-raising activities and crackdown efforts.