Online fraud reaches all time high in Japan

The number of Internet-related crimes in Japan in the first six months of this year hit a record high, according to data issued Thursday by the National Police Agency.

The NPA said there were 1,802 cases of such crimes in the first half of 2006, which is up 12 percent on the same period last year. The largest number of cases involved fraud related to computer networks. Most of these cases, which accounted for about 40 percent of all Internet-related crimes, were linked to Internet auction sites, the NPA said.

Internet auctions are very popular in Japan, with about three out of every five Internet users having participated at in an auction either as buyers, sellers, or both, according to the results of a recent survey by MyVoice Communications Inc. About half of those who had not participated in Internet auctions cited the possibility of fraud as a concern.

Crimes involving illegal access to computer networks jumped 34 percent to 265 cases in the six-month period. These included cases where people accessed accounts on online gaming services to obtain electronic items or weapons that had been won during the game, access to Internet banking accounts and phishing attacks, where people are tricked into revealing their user names and passwords.

Cases of child prostitution involving under-18s met through Internet dating sites totalled 169 cases in the six month period, a jump of 18 percent on the year-ago, while child pornography crimes totalled 97, up 43 percent.

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