According to the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, 30,000 criminal cases involving encounter sites were reported in 2010. The center estimates the losses to be 10 billion yen, an increase of 200 million yen over the year before.
The typical business plan involves employing fake users to interact with real customers, who will then pile up large fees to access the sites.
The sakura employees will take on a troubled persona, possibly that of a male entertainment company manger who is facing depression or challenges in his life, to attract female customers interested in lending a sympathetic ear.
As well, male customers might fall for women pretending to want to break up with a boyfriend or suffering from domestic violence.
Sex writer Yukio Murakami tells the tabloid the story of a male acquaintance who exchanged messages with a “married woman” whose sex-life is uninteresting. “He tried to console her,” the writer explains. “Then she asked if he found her appealing in a rather amorous exchange of emails.”
Just before the pair were set to meet for a meal, however, her mother “had a heart attack” and the meeting never transpired.
“He put out a lot of money for those exchanges,” Murakami says.
The writer explains that the female fakes will pretend to be from the customer’s prefecture and utilize the local dialect in an attempt to build trust.
There are also obvious red flags, Murakami advises, such as those who claim to be virgins, exchanges that start off with overt sexual content, and Web camera discussions where the woman is extremely attractive.
Women interested in marrying English-speaking foreign men are also targets, says Murakami. “The sites employ fake guys who will write things like, ‘I am an American. I want to marry a Japanese woman.’ These employees are usually returnees from overseas or college graduates who majored in English.”