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Desperate singles fall for Japan apartment 'fraud'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A group of singletons in Japan who claim they were tricked into buying apartments by real estate agents feigning a romantic interest in them launched legal action on Wednesday.

Two men and 10 women, all aged in their 30s or early 40s, filed a lawsuit against 14 firms, including real estate agencies and loan companies, demanding a total of 200 million yen ($1.95 million) in compensation.

According to their lawyers, the plaintiffs had become emotionally involved with people they met on online dating sites, with many being led to believe they were heading toward tying the knot.

Their intendeds, however, were more interested in pushing property and talked each alleged victim into buying at least one condominium, with an average price tag of 26 million yen ($254,000), the lawyers said.

Once contracts were signed and sealed, the romance disappeared and the estate agent skipped out of the relationship, leaving the new homeowners with the keys to a new front door but not to anyone else's heart.

One victim was persuaded to buy three properties, the lawyers said.

"These firms' employees made the plaintiffs buy the condominiums, taking advantage of their romantic feelings," said lawyer Shinichi Hirasawa.

"This is a flagrant scheme because the victims were made to purchase the real estate sometimes at prices 30 to 40 percent above the market rate," he said.

The National Consumer Information Center has warned that this kind of alleged deception is becoming more common, with 42 reported victims in 2013, up from 26 in 2012.

A trend for marrying later in Japan leaves many people, especially women, desperate to find a match as they enter their late 30s.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140226/desperate-singles-fall-japan-apartment-fraud