A fake dating site offering AKB48 fans the chance for an encounter with their idols has been busted, though not before managing to persuade 2100 such otaku that the emails they cobbled together from blog posts were worth hundreds of millions of yen.
Website sankakucomplex.com reported that Chiba prefectural police arrested the 31-year-old CEO of a “deai-kei‘ dating site (the most common form of dating site in Japan, offering services ranging from paid introductions to informal prostitution) on organised crime related charges of systematic fraud.
He was found to have milked some 2100 users of 210 million yen by claiming to be able to offer paid dates with the girls of AKB48 and other celebrities, using a variety of cunning ploys to gull their notoriously desperate ‘“ and as it turns out, highly suggestible ‘“ fans into believing they might have a chance at more than a handshake with the girls of their fantasies.
Investigators describe one such victim, a Kanto man in his twenties, who received mails from “AKBâ˜†Acchan‘ ‘“ a name resembling the nickname of AKB48 member Atsuko Maeda ‘“ and soon convinced himself he was actually exchanging mails with Atsuko herself, after she offered such undeniably convincing missives as
“it’s 5 minutes before I’m due on stage!‘ and “the show just ended!‘The, mails are all believed to have been the marginal cunning of the company’s part-time employees, who made careful reference to the sites of some 20 celebrities in order to craft vaguely convincing mails referring to their current activities.
Once the mark’s free trial period ended, he found himself paying Â¥450 for each of these forged masterpieces of the impersonator’s art, and he subsequently came to believe himself to be in a relationship with the real Atsuko.
In one such fictive encounter, “Acchan‘ arranged to meet him early at Tokyo station ‘“ “if it’s early, we won’t get caught‘ ‘“ only to stand him up, telling him that “my manager came!‘Believing in spite of all this that “AKB48 are banned from romance, so it may be for the best that we can’t meet‘ he continued earnestly maintaining
he was in contact with the real Atsuko, and by the time this protracted sham had come to an end had spent Â¥2,700,000 on the service, almost as much as some fans spend on handshaking events.
By then he had finally realised that something might not be right with all this, and brought the matter to the attention of authorities, decrying the devious masterminds who scammed him so cunningly as “unforgivable.
‘Japan’s consumer protection agencies report some 30,000 cases of fraud involving “sakura‘ dating, sites (“sakura‘ being the Japanese term for employees posing as members or similar) each year, with the numbers of victims who fail to report or even notice such shenanigans presumably much higher.
Online there is incredulity that AKB48 fans are quite this easily parted from their cash ‘“ although they are already famed for spending prodigious sums of money on AKB paraphernalia.