A fake dating site offering desperate AKB48 fans the chance for an encounter with the object of their obsession has been busted, though not before managing to persuade 2100 such otaku that the emails they had their employees cobble together from blog posts were worth spending hundreds of millions of yen on.
Chiba prefectural police report arresting 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 bilked 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 “AKB☆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 ¥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 ¥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 in light of what they are already famed for spending their money on, not too much of it:
“There’s no shortage of fools in this world…”
“These creepy pigs are being exploited by people other than AKB48 themselves, that’s all.”
“AKB otaku are such pushovers.”
“This stuff is priceless. There’s such a thing as being too stupid!”
“What do you expect from deaikei. The victim has nobody but himself to blame.”
“At 450 each and 2.7 million in total that is like 6,000 mails this guy paid for…”
“An average of 100k per fan, rich folks these AKB fans.”
“And these people they defrauded must have known AKB48 ban dating, so what did they expect?”
“I cannot imagine the kind of idiot who would be taken in by something like this.”
“That there are 2100 such ones…”
“The guy who spent 2.7 million seems to have satisfied his needs all the same.”
“AKB48 fans need to be declared mentally incompetent and have their assets supervised by a responsible party.”
“Considering they could not work out they were being fed the contents of some public blog I have to wonder if these people are mentally handicapped in some way.”
“They are so pious, they offer tributes to fraudsters and women they can’t even verify the existence of alike.”
“For 2.7 million you really would be better off with a guaranteed handshaking event.”
“I would think you really could meet one for 2.7 million.”
“Is the fraudster cunning or are these people just utter fools?”
“I feel like the real fool for not realising there are so many fools easily partable from their millions.”
“Everyone now realises AKB’s marketing is just a high level scam anyway.”
“He got a return on his investment, what do you think he was doing whilst he read all those mails?”