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Oct 23, 2018

Credit card fraud in Japan

A few years ago I had an unpleasant surprise when checking my credit card billings. I found several billings for purchases made in the US in several home centers in different cities made over a weekend. The total amounted to several thousand dollars. This was my first experience of credit card fraud in Japan and unfortunately it was handled pretty poorly by my bank.


Of course the first thing I did was to call to the emergency hotline to immediately block the card. During the call I was asked several times whether I am really sure that I didn't make purchases in question and the service guy explained to me that nowadays you can make purchases overseas online, treating me like an idiot who doesn't know how online shopping works. Also, when looking at the billings, it was obvious that they were made in actual stores and not online.


The service hotline you have to call to report fraud was already closed at the time so I had to wait until the next day. I called right at 9:00 AM but after I explained my issue I was informed that the person responsible for such issues would not be in the office until 10:00 AM and was asked to call again. I called again at 10 and explained my issue again. They asked me again several times whether I am really sure I didn't make the purchases and also whether it is possible a family member had done them. I explained that I had never been to the US and that my whole family is in Germany and Japan and that the card was in my possession at the time the purchases were made.


They then told me they would start an investigation into the case and said it would take about 2 to 3 months. The billings would be put on hold until the the investigation was over. If, after the investigation, they found it was indeed credit card fraud they would cancel the billings, otherwise I would be charged for the full amount. 


I was, of course, sure that it was credit card fraud but I was unsure of they would investigate this matter and overall the phone experience left behind a lot of insecurities and worries as they didn't tell me anything concrete.


I also felt a little like they had a suspicion that I was the fraudster because I was asked to so many times whether I was sure that I hadn't made the purchases. I am not sure if that was a general policy of the bank or whether this is how they treat foreigners. 


Credit card fraud in Japan photo


Also I was wondering why my bank hadn't noticed the fraudulent billings on my card. As I had never used the card overseas and my usual monthly billings were only between 30.000 to 50.000 yen someone should have at least noticed that these billings were very different from how I usually use the credit card and maybe confirmed that with me. I have heard several stories of credit card fraud from relatives in Germany or friends and coworkers in Japan and in all of them the first one to notice the fraud was the bank and not the client. The website of the bank I used at that time also claims that they are checking the billings for unusual actives 24/7.


I am not sure whether they just overlooked it or whether when you have a foreign name all kinds of purchases overseas are regarded as usual even when they totally differ from you regular usage.


In the end I received a letter from the bank about 4 months after I reported the fraud. In very few sentences and without any word of apology they informed me the billings would be canceled. I was relieved but in general very unhappy about how this was handled so I opened a new bank account at a different bank and got a new credit card as well.

Eli

Eli

Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/


6 Comments

  • Striffy

    on Oct 23

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Did i get this right: The credit card you were referring to is one from a Japanese bank?

  • genkidesu

    on Oct 23

    I'm sorry you had such a poor experience! I worked in credit card fraud in Australia for several years, and it sounds like here they handled it really badly. Most banks (if not all!) should have fraud monitoring software, which essentially triggers an alert for us to look at anything suspicious. It's usually pretty simple to determine what's fraud and what isn't - after all you can't be in the US and in Japan at the same time making transactions on the same card! I do feel like here in Japan since cash is still king in so many places that perhaps that's the reason for their indifference/bad handling of it all. It's no excuse for poor service though and I can only imagine how stressful it was being out thousands of dollars while they were investigating.

  • KevinC

    on Oct 23

    The credit card(EPOS) I own seems to be doing the opposite. when I made an online purchase, they call me the next morning to verify that I made the purchase. They seem to be expat friendly, also provide rental guarantee service too.

  • Eli

    on Oct 24

    @Striffy Yes, it was a Japanese credit card issued by a Japanese bank.

  • Eli

    on Oct 24

    @genkidesu Thanks for your comment. I heard that it works that way at most banks and in my case, I think anyone who looked at the billings would at least have gotten suspicious. It was quite stressful indeed but I was not really out of the money. As I noticed the fraud before it was deducted from my bank account I still had the money but there was this looming fear that I might have to pay it in the end.

  • Eli

    on Oct 24

    @KevinC Thanks for the information. I might consider them if I decide to get a new credit card. As for now, I use Rakuten card and they send you e-mail notifications everytime the card was used so I can act immediately should there be anything suspicious.