Police on alert at Koriyama Station to avert imposter scams

Photo: Koriyama Police Station officers look out for any suspicious person at JR Koriyama Station on the morning of Feb. 10 to fend off imposter scams.

In an effort to fend off imposter scams, police officers are regularly on the lookout on the premises of East Japan Railway's (JR East) Koriyama Station in the namesake Fukushima Prefecture city, which has been used by many fraudsters who visit the homes of victims -- often elderly people -- to swindle them out of bank or credit cards, or cash. These officers from the Koriyama Police Station do not hesitate to talk to anyone whom they feel is exhibiting suspicious behavior or clad in unnatural attire so as to exert a deterrence effect on crimes through such "frontline operations." In fact, the number of imposter scams and the amount of money involved have both declined significantly in the areas covered by the police station, which has made clear that it will "continue this effort to create an atmosphere where imposters may find it hard to commit fraud." During the morning rush hour at JR Koriyama Station, uniformed officers typically stand in front of a ticket gate leading to the shinkansen bullet train platforms and keep an eye on crowds of commuters and travelers passing by to see if there are any suspicious persons. Many members of scam groups who have been arrested in the prefecture have told police that they came by shinkansen from the Tokyo metropolitan area and its vicinity as well as urban areas in the Kansai region of western Japan including Osaka, and that they arrived in the morning. This led the Koriyama police to ramp up its crime-prevention efforts with appearances of uniformed officers at the station and, if necessary, by stopping people as they arrive for questioning. The local police pointed to some features that these "recipients" had in common in many cases. When in suits, their suits do not fit well and they quite often wear sneakers. There also were a number of cases where, upon seeing a police officer, some of them glanced aside or put on an air of aloofness or appeared awkward. The officers involved make it a rule to question anyone with whom they feel a sense of discomfort, the police said, but added they also conduct the questioning on the assumption that those they are speaking to are "citizens of good standing" and try not act overbearingly. They also talk to people who appear in need of help. Outside the train station, the police have stepped up patrolling communities where there have been reports on phone calls that appear to presage impersonation scams. "What we should do is to make steady efforts so that we will be able to reduce the number even by a single case," said Hidekazu Sakai, 47, head of the police station's community safety section. Residents urged to "suspect con trick" when caller speaks of money Seeking to forestall imposter scams, the Fukushima Prefectural Police Department advises people to "suspect a con trick when a telephone caller talks about money." It also calls on them to carry out fact-checking after the phone call by asking the public organizations or financial institutions mentioned by the caller. The department also suggests registration with "POLICE Fukushima," a crime-related email information distribution system set up by the prefectural police, or the use of a phone message recorder. Swindled money down 86% in Koriyama area Imposter scam cases numbered 30 in 2021 in the areas covered by the Koriyama Police Station, with 108.78 million yen defrauded, or 40% of the prefectural total. Among factors behind the relatively large ratio is that Koriyama city is a commercial and transportation hub linking various areas of the Tohoku and neighboring regions, with the Tohoku shinkansen and several other train lines converging. Against that background, the Koriyama police began regular patrols at the railway station in the spring of last year as part of their enhanced anti-fraud activities. As a result, the number of impersonation scam cases came to 13 last year, down 57% from 2021, and the amount of defrauded money fell sharply to 14.78 million yen, down 86%. Compared with 2020, the number decreased 50% and the amount 69%. As for the entire prefecture in 2022, the number was down 12% from the previous year at 104, while the amount declined 10% to 240.71 million yen. (Translated by Kyodo News)