National Police Agency believe it’s for their own good.

For a while now there have been scores of cases in which a con artist will somehow dupe a person into transferring money. There are a lot of different methods that these scammers use to get their hands on the cash, but most often the targets are seniors led to believe a family member is in dire need of money.

And with seniors becoming regular users of mobile phones, criminals are able to get in their ear remotely and walk them through the process of emptying their bank account from an ATM step by step. Thanks to some quick-thinking employees and bystanders, a few would-be victims have been saved just as they were punching in their PIN codes, but others are not so lucky. In the first half of this year alone, there have been over 15 billion yen (US$107M) in damages from these kinds of scams.

Apparently, it’s becoming such a big problem that the Japanese government is considering stepping in and limiting how all seniors can use ATMs. On 26 July, it came to light that the National Police Agency has proposed locking ATM use for any bank account held by someone over 65 years of age that hasn’t had a transaction in over one year.

▼ A news report with some person-on-the-street reactions from seniors

Elderly people, naturally, were not thrilled about the news, telling reporters that setting limits on only seniors wasn’t fair and that setting the cut-off age at 65 seemed especially arbitrary. It’s been reported that the banking industry isn’t crazy about the idea either since it requires them to restrict their own customers and involves costly upgrades.

Online comments, most of which were probably made by people under 65, weren’t quite as opposed to the fraud countermeasure. Some, however, wonder if it might be a slippery slope towards government overreach into all of our bank accounts.

“I don’t think this [idea] is bad. We got scammers teaching them to use ATMs over the phone.”
“They can still go to the counter. They probably prefer that anyway.”
“The con artists will just find another way. They always do.”
“Some banks already limit how much can be withdrawn in a single day.”
“There are people in their 40s and 50s who get scammed pretty easily too.”
“This sounds like yokinfusa to me.”

Yokinfusa (meaning “account lockdown”) is a Japanese term that describes a blanket freezing of citizens’ assets by the government, either by imposing withdrawal limits or imposing incredibly high taxes on any bank transaction. It was done in post-war Japan to curb hyperinflation and the idea tends to pop up now and again as a possible solution to the country’s ongoing economic malaise.

It’s probably a little too early to be pointing the yokinfusa finger since this is still just a proposal, and a widely disliked one at that. But if you’re near or over 65 and still feel you have your wits about you enough to not be taken by some grifter, it might be a good time to consider diversifying into other forms of cashless payment services.

Source: TV Asahi, Kyodo, Golden Times
Top image: Pakutaso
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