New Scams Target Chinese Nationals Living In Japan

New Scams Target Chinese Nationals Living In Japan

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China nationals targeted in Japan scam
Pictures: TCL / PIXTA(ピクスタ); Canva
A disgusting new scam in Japan is explicitly targeting Chinese nationals. The threat? Pay up - or get deported.

Chinese nationals in Japan, especially exchange students, are the latest target for Japan’s innovative scammers. The thieves have so far made off with several hundreds of millions of yen. The scams instill fear in victims that they might get arrested or deported – unless they buy their innocence.

Scams increasing and evolving towards Chinese victims

Japan is no stranger to malicious scams. Many scammers trick victims into handing over large sums of money by impersonating loved ones and celebrities.

Last week, Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, 48, filed a lawsuit against Meta & Facebook JPN for permitting unauthorized use of his name and images in fake investment ads. He’s seeking 1 yen (0.006 USD) in damages “to confirm the illegality of posting ads that lead to scams as soon as possible,” NHK reported.

Scams are increasing, and so is the amount of lost money. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recorded an 8.3% increase in scams in 2023.The damage? Over 44.12 billion yen (over 280 million USD).

While fraudsters are getting away with more, they are also targeting a new demographic––Chinese nationals living in Japan. Last year, about 104,000 Chinese exchange students lived in Japan. Japan’s government aims to increase this to 400,000 within the next decade.

The threat: Pay up or get deported

Picture: takaoekaki / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Victims report receiving unexpected phone calls from Chinese authorities. The callers said they faced impending arrest or deportation from Japan unless they paid “insurance fees.”

“A criminal group has made a cashcard using your personal information and is causing damages. Either you pay 1.8 million yuan (USD $253,800) or they’ll deport you by force. Choose,” a scammer masking as a Chinese embassy worker said to a male Chinese exchange student, 25, in Kobe City on May 14th.


The student transferred 400,000 yuan ($56,400) “as an insurance fee” to an online banking service. They realized soon after that it was a scam, according to Hyogo Prefectural Police.

The MPD knows of over 10 cases from this year in a related scheme. Chinese exchange students paid off scammers by following instructions to send a fake kidnapping video of themselves to their parents in China. The parents would then transfer a ransom.

One scammer, ironically, impersonated a Chinese police officer and accused a female Chinese exchange student of scamming herself. He convinced her to buy her innocence. She transferred 24 million yen ($153,689), which the scammer said wasn’t enough. The scammer told her to make a fake ransom video from a hotel room, where she was for two weeks before Japanese authorities discovered her stuck in fear.

Widespread victimization

There have been over 100 inquiries to the MPD about “strange calls from people who identify as an official from Chinese public institutions such as the security intelligence agency, the police department, or the embassy.” At least 30 victims fell prey to such calls, costing them several hundreds of millions of yen in total.

The MPD suspects that a Chinese criminal syndicate is involved, NHK reported.

This scam against Chinese nationals has spread beyond the capital. The Saitama Prefectural Police Department has records dating back to 2021. With nine victims in their district, authorities in Saitama have made flyers and videos to raise awareness and protect Chinese residents.

The issue was addressed on a national level last August when the Ministry of Education requested institutions accepting Chinese exchange students to inform them of potential scams.

Why these victims?

Scammer at work
Picture: hanahal / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Experts say that the vulnerability of Chinese nationals living apart from family is what makes them an ideal target for criminals.

“Pulling off scams domestically in China is becoming gradually more difficult. Thus Chinese living abroad have become new targets,” Hitoshibashi University Professor Yunhai Wang said.

“If the victim is in China, it is easy to confirm if they are okay. However, if they’re abroad, the options for checking on them are limited. That makes environment in which these groups can scam families easily.”

A male Chinese national, 34, who lives in Japan, says that scammers are exploiting the sensitivity towards authoritative power which is relatively higher among Chinese people.

“Compared to Japanese people, Chinese people are more alert towards government bodies such as the police. The scammers are probably taking advantage of that mentality. On top of that, by dangling the word ‘forced deportation,’ there are likely people who panic,” he said.

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