Our resident scam investigator turns criminal to see how much information he can steal from a stranger’s smart phone.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years about our Japanese language reporter Go Hatori, it’s that he will destroy any scammer who tries to bluff money out of him. Line hackers and porn site extortionists have nothing on Go, because he fights for justice as a true hero for the people.

Go’s quest to protect humanity from scam artists and criminals has recently led him to go rogue and steal a stranger’s iPhone, for the good of humanity. Don’t worry, though; our modern hero hasn’t turned villain! It was all done with permission as part of an experiment to see how much information our smart phones hold about us.

The stranger in question is named Suzuki. He’s a friend of Jun, another member of the SoraNews24 team. Go has never met Suzuki, who agreed to participate in the experiment with his actual cell phone. All he knew about him before the start of the experiment was that Suzuki is Jun’s friend.

▼ Jun (in the bubble), and Suzuki

Although Go isn’t a true criminal, we had to make this experiment as authentic as possible, so we had Mr. Suzuki come to the office and accidentally drop his cell phone.

“Oh my. What is that over there?”

Then our acting criminal sneaked up while Mr. Suzuki had his back tuned and snatched it right out from under him.

▼ Look at that devious face…

With “stolen” phone in hand, Go returned to his desk and got right to work. He had only one hour to figure out as much as he could about Suzuki while he was at lunch with Jun, so he started with one of the most used apps on a Japanese smart phone: Line. Within 10 minutes, Go was pretty certain he understood Mr. Suzuki’s line of work. His Line contacts included famous idols, so Go guessed that he worked in the entertainment industry, though not necessarily as a celebrity himself. Go isn’t a real criminal, so he avoided looking at the actual content of Mr. Suzuki’s messages, but his Line contact list gave Go a pretty good feeling about his work.

Next, Go took a look at Suzuki’s phone book, which was also filled with names that seemed like celebrities or studios. There were a lot of people and businesses associated with the entertainment industry. In fact, there were a lot of registered contacts in general, which implied that he did a lot of talking on the phone. At this point, Go was almost certain that Mr. Suzuki works in the entertainment industry.

With that out of the way, Go then turned to Suzuki’s social media accounts to see what he could find there. He started with Facebook, which is obviously the easiest choice for stealing someone’s personal data, because even if you’ve got your information locked away from others to see, you can still see it from your account. Thanks to Facebook, Go figured out Suzuki’s full name, date of birth, company name, hometown, and phone number.

From there he could quickly look up the company name on Google and pinpoint the company’s address and phone number, and he soon learned that Suzuki is the managing director of the artist management division of that company. Go had figured out Suzuki’s exact job, and details about his job, within 20 minutes of browsing on his phone.

Go had yet to learn anything about Suzuki’s personal life, however, so he decided to swipe through all of the photos. There he found a picture of Suzuki’s driver’s license, which he must have taken to use with one service or another, and that’s how Go easily learned Suzuki’s address.

Go then turned to lightly browsing Suzuki’s calendar, memo app, and e-mails, quickly building up the identity of Suzuki and learning that he:

  • Likes soccer
  • Likes dogs
  • Regularly rents musical instruments
  • Is currently disagreeing with someone about something
  • Likes eel
  • Likes fishing
  • Has downloaded some NSFW videos
  • Likes the manga/anime Slam Dunk
  • Often goes to Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku

He also learned Suzuki’s family addresses and phone numbers, and a name that might be his father’s. By that point, the one-hour mark had passed, and Suzuki and Jun had returned from lunch, so Go couldn’t delve any deeper. However, Go had gleaned enough information that when the two men sat down in the conference room to discuss what was found, Suzuki was blown away.


▼  “That’s right…”

▼  “Oh my god…That’s scary! I’ve got to tighten up the security of my phone…”

“Smart phones are things we don’t usually show other people, right?” said Suzuki. “So to have someone go through my phone like this…It makes me look at myself objectively…and now I want change my daily lifestyle!” He’d learned a lot about how much information is stored on his phone, and reflected that even trivial details which ordinarily wouldn’t seem important, still feel invasive when they’re uncovered.

And Go hadn’t even looked at Suzuki’s Line messages or read his e-mails in detail, nor had he touched his banking apps. If he had, he might have discovered even more sensitive personal information. If He’d been a real criminal, he would have easily been able to steal Suzuki’s identity, pull a scam on him, blackmail him, or otherwise ruin his life, just by having access to his phone.

So let this be a lesson, SoraReaders: not only can smartphones cause your death in various ways, but they can ruin your life if stolen. Keep your phones close at hand, keep stringent security settings, and, if truly necessary, use anti-theft devices to protect them!

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]