An Online Victim Gets Vengeance

Back to Contents of Issue: May 2000

Ah, Sweet Revenge

by Kyoko Fujimoto

THE GROWTH OF ONLINE auctions in Japan has, predictably, led to a dramatic jump in Internet fraud cases. Same as anywhere else. That being the case, the story of how "Shmr" tracked down and busted a 27-year-old shyster named Masahiko Nakanishi should give satisfaction to online victims everywhere. It happened like this ...

"I'm fighting back! Having been cheated online, I've decided to ask for everyone's help. I will get him arrested for everyone who trusts the Net." So wrote Shmr on his website on February 13.

A victim of online auction fraud, Shmr was determined to catch the bad guy. When he realized he'd been cheated, he posted a very detailed explanation of how the swindler deceived him, warning, "This is how he usually does it!" According to Shmr, in late January he found a Sony computer on the Yahoo auction site and bid on it. He was the high bidder, so the seller contacted him and gave him his bank account info [Japanese often pay by wiring money to the seller's account], cell phone number, and fake home address. The swindler told Shmr that he would send the PC that day and therefore needed to confirm payment. Shmr transferred ¥150,000.

Shmr soon got another call from Nakanishi, who said that if he could wait one more day, he'd have a much better PC for an additional charge of ¥73,000. Shmr denied him at first, but Nakanishi was a good salesperson and convinced him to buy the better one. Shmr transferred additional money, and then got a message from Nakanishi saying he'd arranged for a courier service to have the computer delivered by the end of the next day. Shmr then decided to buy the original PC in addition to the better one and tried to call Nakanishi. No one answered, and the PCs never arrived.

A few days later he put a message on the Yahoo Auction evaluation bulletin board saying that he still hadn't received the PCs and wanted Nakanishi to contact him. Much to his surprise he got an email from the first PC's second-highest bidder, who had been told by Nakanishi that the high bidder had cancelled. Shmr sent a warning email to Nakanishi saying that he would report the incident to the police if he didn't get a reply by day's end. When no reply came in, Shmr reported the incident to the police, who essentially ignored him.

In early February, Shmr put the details of the case up on his website (, saying the police and the bank had been slow in responding to his case. The police refused to treat the incident as fraud when he first reported it, and, for security reasons, the bank couldn't give Shmr any information about Nakanishi.

Shmr knew Nakanishi was still out there cheating people, so he posted warnings on his site announcing Nakanishi's email address (Web-based), the various names he used in the auctions (he used several for the auction), and the cell phone number (cell phones tell you who's calling, so Nakanishi could screen calls). Other Nakanishi victims helped add more information to the site. Shmr compiled data from 19 other frauds committed by Nakanishi, starting from November 1999 to January 2000, and someone found out from his cell phone number that he lived in Hokkaido. Another person who lived in Hokkaido then offered to help find the swindler.

Working together, by mid-February Shmr and a few others finally found out where Nakanishi lived. Shmr reported everything to the police, but they asked him to wait till the end of March. Instead he traveled to Hokkaido with several others and had Nakanishi arrested.

"I realize the police don't care much about crime on the Internet," Shmr says. "But I hope now they'll take it more seriously, so people feel safer online."

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