Some 58,000 police officers were mobilized at automated teller machines nationwide Wednesday in a sweeping crackdown on scams swindling elderly people out of cash.
Police say tens of thousands of elderly people have been targeted in recent years by scammers pretending to be their grandchildren or other people in need of quick money.
The National Police Agency said it deployed some 58,000 officers to patrol about 81,000 automated teller machines, or 83% of the ATMs across Japan.
The officers alerted elderly people not to transfer money hastily on unconfirmed demands.
"Today is a pension payment day, when a large amount of money is deposited into bank accounts of the elderly," Shinji Ibayashi, chief of Tokyo's Kitazawa police station, said.
"We must make utmost efforts to prevent any more harm from the bank transfer scam," he said.
In the scam -- known locally as "It's me!" fraud -- criminals tell elderly people they are their children or grandchildren and need money because they were caught in traffic accidents or in minor crimes.
When potential victims press for details, the criminal repeatedly says, "It's me, it's me!" and gives details of a bank account.
Fraudsters have extorted a total of 21.4 billion yen through "It's me" or similar scams in the eight months through August, according to police. Police have caught 346 alleged perpetrators.
New forms of the scam include telling people over the telephone they need to pay money for legal fees or for fictitious purchases of adult movies.© Wire reports