Japanese Police Place Fake Gift Cards at Local Convenience Stores to Fight Support Scams


April 29, 2024

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Japanese Police Place Fake Gift Cards at Local Convenience Stores to Fight Support Scams

The Echizen Police in Fukui, Japan are placing dummy payment cards across the prefecture’s convenience stores in a novel tactic to thwart support scammers preying on the elderly.

Support scams have run rampant across the globe in the past few years, with fraudsters calling up random victims posing as help desk employees, warning that their computer is infected with malware.

The attackers especially target the elderly, a notoriously vulnerable demographic, prompting them to pay for “virus removal.” Many scammers demand payment in the form of payment (gift) cards easily found at convenience stores.

The Fukui prefecture in Japan is making a push to combat the phenomenon by placing fake payment cards labeled “Virus Trojan Horse Removal Payment Card” and “Unpaid Bill Late Fee Payment Card” in their stores, giving buyers a chance to become suspicious and start a conversation with the clerk.

As reported by local news site Fukushimbun Online, the move has already helped some steer clear of fraud.

“It's hard to get people to talk to you if they just ask you to make a purchase, but if you use a dummy card, it's easier to guide them,” said Yayoi Tanaka, of the Takefu Hinomi store.

The initiative kicked off in November last year, with the cooperation of 34 convenience stores in Fukui Police’s jurisdiction.

“[The prefecture] installed the system in the electronic money corner, and have already prevented two incidents. Two employees received awards from the police department on February 1,” the news site reports. “The victims, both elderly men, were charged a fee to remove virus infections from their computers.”

Americans lost over a billion dollars to scammers impersonating businesses or government agencies in 2023, the FTC said in a report published this year.

Bitdefender recently introduced Scamio, a free scam detector and prevention service for anyone with a Bitdefender account. Suspicious about a certain phone call, phishing email, SMS or strange ad? Simply describe the situation to our clever chatbot and let it guide you to safety. You can also share with Scamio the exact thing you want to check, such as a screenshot, PDF, QR code, or link. Scamio lets you know in seconds if it’s an imposter, a sham, or fraud.

To learn more about the support scam phenomenon, read through our short guide How To Spot and Avoid Tech Support Scams.




Filip has 15 years of experience in technology journalism. In recent years, he has turned his focus to cybersecurity in his role as Information Security Analyst at Bitdefender.

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