“‘I don’t want to think I’ve been duped’… and 13 million yen in damages!
In late July, it became a hot topic of conversation when the world’s largest matchmaking app, Tinder, was launched near the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Village, showing athletes from a wide variety of sports flaunting their physical beauty.
Tinder is now widely used in Japan, not only by young people but also by a wide range of people. I heard the following story from a 19-year-old female college student in Tokyo who uses Tinder.
“One of the things that surprised me when I started using Tinder was that there are so many hosts using it now. Some of them say they’re hosts from the start, but they don’t try to get you to join a restaurant right away. After a certain amount of communication, they start saying, ‘Actually, I’m a host. There are many of them.
In addition, they all say the same thing: “I want to start a business in the future, and I’m working as a host to make money for it. There are so many people who talk about the same thing that I think it’s probably a manual instruction given by stores that are losing sales due to the Corona disaster.
Is it possible that matching apps, which have spread rapidly in Japan, have already become a place for hosting and religious solicitation? This is what IT journalist Hiroshi Mikami has to say about the current situation.
He says, “I can say this about matching apps in general, but I’ve heard on social networking sites that there are more and more cases of hosts using them for sex sales. In some cases, they tell the other party that they are a host early on, and in other cases, they act as if they are in a pseudo-romance to get the other party to fall in love with them.
In other cases, there are network business solicitations. After a few exchanges, when they have met each other once or twice, they often say, “Let’s go to a party,” or “I’ll introduce you to a famous person,” and take the person to a place where several people gather. However, these are cases that have been seen for quite some time, not limited to Coronation Street.
Matching apps => LINE => fake investment sites…
On the other hand, Mikami points out that the problem with the Corona disaster regarding matching apps is that the method of international romance scams has changed.
“The first is that not only Tinder, which has been used for international romance scams, but also Japanese domestic apps are now being used.
For example, they claim to be Taiwanese or American and say they are in Japan, and as they get to know each other, they say things like, “I can’t meet you because of Corona, so let’s meet when Corona is over. In fact, there was one woman I interviewed who was robbed of 13 million yen.
In the case of this woman, Ms. A, she met a man on a matching app, and as they exchanged messages on line such as, “It’s hard,” and “It’s painful,” she forgave him.
The man kept saying, “I’m losing money because of Corona, but I’m getting by with virtual currency,” and “This is a website. I’m getting by on virtual currency. So she had no choice but to give it a try one time, hoping to maintain her feelings for him. Then, she made a real profit on a virtual currency trading site and thought, “This might be a good idea. He recommended me to do so. However, once I had deposited a certain amount of money, I received a call from a virtual currency website.
They told me that I would have to pay taxes because it was an Australian virtual currency site, and that if I couldn’t pay the taxes, my account would be suspended. It was a large amount of money, and I started to put more and more money into my account, and I ended up putting in a lot of money because I couldn’t get points unless I put in a certain amount.
“At that time, the man who introduced her to him acted as her ally, saying, ‘I have to get it back somehow,’ but by that time, she had put about 9 million yen into the account. After that, when she needed more money and asked her father for a loan, he told her that it was a scam and went to the Consumer Affairs Center with her. But even though there are actual cases of such scams, the Consumer Affairs Center cannot declare them to be scams because they have no proof, so all they can do is say, ‘Be careful.
If they say, “We can’t say for sure that it’s a scam,” she originally wants to believe him, so she tries a little harder and puts in a little more money. In the end, it amounted to 13 million yen, and she was drained by him.
“She actually put the entire 13 million yen into a virtual currency site, but this site is actually a scam site designed just for her to deceive people by pretending to be a real site. Moreover, it seems that there are quite a few similar victims, and there are about 70 people in the LINE group where such victims gather.”
In the past, international romance scams have involved lawyers or military personnel who come to Japan to trick Japanese women into paying them. In the past, international romance scams involved lawyers or military personnel who came to Japan to collect money from Japanese women.
He says, “They use fake virtual currency sites and make you believe they are actually making money so they can take your money. Of course, he is in league with the fake virtual currency sites. It’s a ‘theatrical’ type of scam, probably run by some kind of criminal group.
The victim is an ordinary company employee.
The new method of the international romance scam is to use a Japanese matching app to meet people in Japanese. This is because the matching app only serves as an “entrance to the dating scene,” Mikami explains, and the victim immediately moves on to LINE.
Moreover, when you hear the words “international romance scam” or “13 million yen in damages,” you may think that it is a distant world that targets special people such as wealthy people, but many of the victims are ordinary office workers.
“In the case of Mr. A, he did not have a large amount of savings, but in addition to his own income, he borrowed money from his parents and also used consumer loans. The biggest victims of such scams are women, who are often involved in marriage scams based on sex sales. In the case of men, if they feel uncomfortable with the dating business, they can just stop, whereas in the case of women, they don’t want to think that they have been cheated and in many cases don’t believe that it is a scam.
Mr. Mikami warns that because people are now less resistant to matching apps, scams like this can now happen to anyone.
“There are many people who think that matching apps are safer than so-called dating services because they are legally compliant with the Internet Dating Services Act and there is identity verification. However, it is possible to forge your driver’s license image, and in fact, it is not impossible to fool someone into believing you are someone else, as there have been cases of leaked images. It is important to remember that identity verification does not mean security.
There are also sites that require you to submit a “certificate of singleness.” Although the certificate of singleness itself can be issued by the local government, scams still occur. There are also sites that require you to submit a “singleness certificate.
So, is there any way to identify suspicious cases?
For hosts, it’s easy to say, “Come to the restaurant,” and you’re out. If it’s a scam, the person will want to move from the matching app to LINE immediately. Whether it’s positive or negative, money should be discussed. If you hear words like “you can make so much money,” “I’ll give you money,” or “investment,” you’re out.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with matching apps themselves, but now that everyone is using them, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a lot of malicious intent mixed in there.
Hiroshi Mikami is an IT journalist. Part-time lecturer at Bunkyo University’s Faculty of Information Studies (SNS culture theory/internet flames). Specializes in security, Internet incidents, and smartphones. In addition to writing security articles for the general public on the web, he has given numerous commentaries on TV and radio. Also appears on “UstToday,” a live media information program full of the latest IT information (broadcast every Monday at 9pm).
Interviewed and written by： Wakako Tago
Born in 1973. After working for a publishing company and an advertising production company, she became a freelance writer. In addition to interviewing actors and actresses for weekly and monthly magazines, she writes drama columns for a variety of media. JUMP 9 no Tobira ga Openitoki" (both published by Earl's Publishing).