Details of how online dating service operator Aglaia Japan defrauded thousands of people are now emerging. The company’s former president Yusuke Aikawa, who was already indicted for violation of the Organized Crime Punishment Law and fraud, began his hearing just last March. The company is believed to have swindled around $2.1 million from an estimated 2,100 people.
One modus operandi that the company did was to impersonate celebrities to bilk money out of their customers. One such case involved a man in his 20s who was led to believe he was corresponding with Atsuko Maeda or Atchan, a former member of the J-pop mega-group AKB48. He was doubtful at first that it was actually her, but eventually got convinced when some of the messages she sent him were consistent with those on her blog. When the man’s free trial on the dating site expired, he had to spend around $4 for every email he sent. And he did spend because he was already in love with “Atchan”. All in all, he spent around $27,000.
Investigators believe that the 20 part-time employees of Aglaia were researching on celebrities‘ blogs and social networks to “convince” customers they were talking to the real deal. Aside from impersonating famous people, they also use various tactics to get people to cough up money. In another case, they made a middle aged-woman having marital problems fall in love with a “29 year old man” who eventually got into an accident and needed money for hospital expenses. She ended up spending around $15,000 to help him out. Consumer bureaus around the country get around 30,000 complaints annually from charged websites that defraud them of huge amounts of money.