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Complaint calls over virus-related scams top 10,000 in Japan

Complaint calls over scams related to the novel coronavirus have topped 10,000 since the start of the domestic outbreak in January, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan said Wednesday.
Police, meanwhile, said they have been alerted to a number of crimes exploiting the pandemic, including fraudsters tricking their way into the homes of the growing number of elderly people staying indoors in order to commit theft and strangers touching children by pretending to conduct health examinations.
Scams reported to the police also include attempts by imposters to swindle money by pretending over the phone to offer financial relief for damage caused by the COVID-19 disease.
By Tuesday, consumer affairs offices around the country had received 11,030 calls on such virus-related incidents since January, when the first domestic infection was confirmed.
Police and local authorities, meanwhile, have raised the alert over an increase of virus-related frauds particularly targeting the elderly.
In Tokyo, a man dressed as a workman visited a house to say he was checking whether nearby electrical work was affecting it. While he was chatting to the resident, another man sneaked in and stole cash.
In late March, a man in his 80s in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward received a call from a woman asking him to prepare his bank card and official seal so he could receive financial aid related to the coronavirus.
Other similar scam phone calls included fake information about insurance covering COVID-19 and bogus claims about the dispatch of an exam kit for the virus or work being under way to remove coronavirus from water pipes. None of the call receivers suffered losses in these cases, according to the police.
The Tokyo police have asked people not to pick up calls from unknown numbers and to record messages instead so as to gauge whether the calls are genuine.
Children are also targets. On March 25 in Tokyo's Kokubunji city, a young man touched an elementary school girl, saying he wanted to examine her to see if she had the virus.
On March 27 at a park in Tokyo's Taito Ward, a man who appeared to be in his 60s offered a small boy and girl candy which he said "tastes like yogurt and is effective against the coronavirus." He left when he noticed their mothers.
There have also been online approaches via emails and text messages pretending to sell expensive face masks or asking the receiver to invest in a fake mask sales business.
"Never listen when the story sounds groundless, and please call your local consumer affairs center if you feel any doubt," warned an official of the national center.


KYODO
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