A record 2,322 scams in Japan to steal internet banking IDs and passwords have resulted in unauthorized money transfers totaling a record of around 3 billion yen ($21 million) in the first half of this year, a report by the National Police Agency showed Tuesday.
The number of cases mainly involving phishing this year has already surpassed the annual total of any previous year, with the financial loss approaching the record high of 3.07 billion yen set in 2015, according to the agency.
The agency attributes the surge in cases to expanding internet banking and increasingly sophisticated phishing emails. Financial institutions, particularly those without physical branches, were hit especially hard in the first half of this year.
Phishing emails and text messages typically impersonate financial institutions and redirect users to counterfeit websites, ostensibly to address urgent matters. These messages often prompt potential victims to input their passwords and other personal information. Criminal groups are believed to use ill-gotten personal information to transfer funds from users' accounts to their accounts.
A 40-year-old Indonesian man was arrested in July by Indonesian police for illegally using the credit card information of a Japanese individual stolen through phishing, the agency separately said. This marks the first arrest of an overseas suspect resulting from cross-border collaborations between the agency's National Cyber Unit, established in April 2022, and foreign authorities, according to the agency.
With Japan seeing a sharp rise in phishing scams, police have advised against clicking on links in suspicious emails and only entering sensitive information on official websites or apps. In July, the agency also requested financial institutions via the Japanese Bankers Association to enhance their security measures.