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[July 2020]

Beware of consumer problems caused by social media!

Sample case

I saw a free gift offer on social media* which said, "10,000 yen will be offered to the first 2,000 applicants. Of these, 10 applicants will be given 1,200,000 yen." I applied for it and later I received a message "You won 1,200,000 yen." I thought the money would be given in cash, but actually applicants were supposed to apply for an automated FX trading app worth 1,200,000 yen. I was told to wait for a while because already 7,000 persons were on a waiting list. I was also induced to install a free trial app and I did so. I didn't know much about the mechanism, but 10,000 yen was charged to the app every day. Then I thought it would be possible to earn 300,000 yen in a month.

At a later date, a URL was sent to me through social media. When I accessed the URL, I was demanded to pay about 100,000 yen for security. The screen showed a message "Final call for entries! Make payment by tomorrow," so I hurried into paying it with a credit card. Further, I was encouraged to pay about 500,000 yen to make more profit and I made payment with a credit card again. I want to cancel the contract.

(woman in her 20s)

  1. * Social media are websites and software programs used for social networking, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LINE, and Instagram.

Problems and Advice

Local consumer affairs centers and the like across Japan have received an annually increasing number of inquiries about problems caused by social media. While social media are useful communication tools, users may unexpectedly get in trouble. In order to use social media safely, recognize risks in using social media and remember the following tips.

(1) Carefully determine if your social media acquaintance is trustworthy or not.

Social media operating companies mostly state on their terms of use "We accept no liability for problems arising from use of social media." Even if you've found some congenial friends online, it's uncertain whether or not the online friends are trustworthy. Careful judgment is necessary.

(2) Don't swallow ads and messages on social media.

On social media, there are many ads purporting big discounts or exaggerating product effects and messages like "Easy to make profit," "No deficit," "I want to see you," etc. Do not blindly accept them.

(3) Talk with family members about how social media should be used.

Many teenagers have got in trouble without being noticed by their parents. Talk with family members about how social media should be used. Parental control and filtering options are useful.

(4) Never disclose information on identification cards.

Even if your online friend has shown identifying information, never show yours. Never disclose your personal information on identification cards such as student identification card, driver's license, and health insurance card. If you do so, your information may be misused and you may be involved in serious trouble. In addition, it is difficult to delete information posted and spread on social media. Refrain from posting personal information, your photos and any other identifying information.