NAGOYA — A group of six men and women have been arrested by Aichi Prefectural Police on suspicion of using a dating app to extort cash from men through a scheme in which they allegedly invited victims out, got them drunk, led them to crash while driving, and blackmailed them for silence over the accidents.
The underhand methods employed in the cases use a dating app popular with young people to find targets, and then exploit victims’ vulnerabilities from their guilt over drunk driving and embarrassment from approaching women with an ulterior motive.
At around 2 a.m. on Jan. 4 at a bar near JR Owari-Ichinomiya Station in the Aichi Prefecture city of Ichinomiya, a company employee in his 20s from Nagoya’s Minami Ward met an unemployed 22-year-old woman from Shimada, in neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture, after she invited him out after getting to know each other on a dating app. The woman, who has since been found guilty of extortion, drank alone with the man. The two had a great conversation and before they knew it, it was morning.
It was then she told him she wanted him to take her back home, and that he should stay over. Although the man had drunk several beers and shochu spirits, he was interested and didn’t refuse; he let the woman ride in the front passenger seat of his car, and started driving. She then verbally instructed him to make a turn, at which point the vehicle went down a narrow, uninhabited alley among fields.
At around 5:30 a.m. while traveling on a road only about 3.5 meters wide, they saw a car coming from the opposite direction. As they passed, the cars collided. The two men then came out of the other vehicle, accused the man of being drunk, and threatened to call the police. Although he apologized, the two men from the oncoming vehicle continued to push the point, asking him, “What are you going to do about repairs costs?” and, “How much are you going to pay?”
If it came to light that he had been driving under the influence, the man’s license could be revoked. As a result, he was taken by the men to a convenience store some 1.4 kilometers from the scene, and withdrew 50,000 yen (about $479). The two told him it was a low sum, and on their urging he was made to borrow another 670,000 yen (some $6,420) from two ATMs owned by a consumer finance company, to be extorted for a total of 720,000 yen.
The man approached the Aichi Prefectural Police about the matter, and since July the force has arrested six people in connection with the case. It emerged that similar incidents had occurred repeatedly in Ichinomiya, and six cases have been pursued in court. Police reported that between December 2019 and June 2020, six men aged between their 20s and 40s were extorted for a total of 3.39 million yen (about $32,482). The cash was said to have been used on leisure spending including pachinko gambling.
The dating app the group used has around 6 million registered users, according to its operator. It recommends people to one another based on shared interests and hobbies, and apparently carries out matches on the largest scale in the country. Mobile Marketing Data Labo, a private research firm based in Tokyo’s Minato Ward that is well versed in social media, ran a survey in September on 5,385 people aged between their 20s and 40s. Of them, some 27% reported “knowing about dating apps,” and of that number 57.1% said they had used one before.
Two women whose role was to invite men out to meet up had been users of the app before their involvement in the group. A head at the Aichi Prefectural Police said, “Recently there have been a lot of people seriously looking for a partner using apps. Because the number of users has increased, it’s probably gotten easier to choose targets.”
An investigator also said, “Because victims have actually driven while drunk, and they had designs upon the women involved, the hurdles for them to come forward are high.” They reported that there are victims other than those from the confirmed cases, but that some are not willing to file victim reports.
(Japanese original by Shintaro Iguchi, Nagoya News Center)