Many would agree that smartphones are the easiest and most convenient way to stay entertained no matter where you go, provided there’s reception. Although, they do distract us from what’s happening in the immediate vicinity. Texting and checking apps while walking through the streets of a busy city can lead to collisions with people or signposts, or even traffic if one isn’t careful!
Now, a recent string of scams in Tokyo shows that the distractedness we experience when on our phones also make us a target.
Approximately two months ago, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department was contacted after a 36-year-old businessman fell victim to extortion in the area around Shinjuku Station. The man was innocently walking through the station’s passages while on his smartphone when a second man suddenly approached him, accusing the phone user of taking photographs up girls’ skirts. According to reports, the victim is guilty of no such deed and was in fact on his phone’s terminal screen. Nevertheless, he was blackmailed for130,000 yen (US$1,324). Take note that in Japan’s cash-based society, carrying such a large sum of money in one’s wallet is not unheard of.
Last month, the same thing happened again to another 26-year-old businessman passing through the hallways of JR Shinjuku Station. The young man was accused of taking inappropriate photos while innocently navigating the terminal screen of his cell phone and this time asked to pay 500,000 yen (US$5,093)!
Apparently, one of the accused men did hand over his money in spite of his innocence. He had this to say about the incident: “I was so absorbed in my smartphone that I was unable to make sense of the situation when this man suddenly called out to me. In my poor judgment, I paid him.”
In the wake of these scams, two 28-year-old men have been arrested under suspected extortion, hopefully putting an end to this string of scams. Still, let this be a reminder to all of us to be extra careful when walking around using our smartphones. The police department in particular urges people to stay alert while moving about, for distraction can lead to disaster if circumstances prove unlucky.