‘Like a video game’: Japan’s gangs hire online

Police have been scrambling to get criminal ads taken down and have offered rewards of up to 1 million yen (about $6,600) for information on the gangs behind them.

Criminal recruits are being “exploited and disposed of as pawns” by gang leaders, the National Police Agency said in a statement to AFP.  

Of the roughly 13,100 people arrested on organized fraud charges between 2018 and 2022, only two percent had occupied high-ranking gang positions, police records show.  

Tales abound of applicants being forced to disclose personal information about themselves and their families, including home addresses, in case they quit.

X could not be reached for a comment, and Telegram said it “proactively” monitors public parts of the platform and that users can report private groups.

Yamada found out how ugly things can get after she was sent an air ticket and flown to the Philippines in 2019 by the gang that had hired her on X.

There she and other recruits were trained to make hundreds of cold calls to elderly residents in Japan while cooped up in a hotel under close surveillance, fearing for their lives. She believes a fellow recruit was murdered.

When she was eventually arrested, she said, “I thought I would finally be set free.”