crime

Pensioner pretends to be deceived by telephone fraud, helps catch criminals

41 Comments
By Andrew Miller

Telephone fraud is a serious problem in Japan and many elderly people fall victim to it each year. Known as “ore ore sagi“, fraudsters often pretend to be the call recipient’s son, using such lines as, “Mom, it’s me, it’s me! I’m in trouble!” to trick large sums of money from the unsuspecting party, and banks now post warnings next to their ATMs asking people only to send money if they’re 100-percent sure of who they’re sending it to.

Thanks to increased awareness of the problem, however, more and more people are beginning to see through this type of scam. One particularly clued-up 69-year-old woman who realized something was wrong, in fact, has recently been co-operating with local police by pretending that she had been duped by a call she received from fraudsters, ultimately leading to their arrests.

The incident took place on Sept 3 in Mitaka, Tokyo, and began when the elderly woman received a phone call from a man claiming to be her son. What immediately alerted her that something was suspicious was that the caller claimed to have borrowed large sums of money from the company for which he worked, and needed help paying it back. “For a start, my son doesn’t work in any office,” the woman commented.

Angered by the criminal’s audacity and realizing that something needed to be done to prevent the fraudsters from trying the same scam out on other, less-informed people, the woman contacted the police and told them what the situation was. When another call came soon after, she agreed to hand over the requested large sum of money at a spot close to her local park the following day.

In place of money, the woman packed empty envelopes to hand over to the men, and police kept a low profile as they waited for the fraudsters to arrive. When the time came to hand over the cash, two men appeared: one coming forward to accept the money, the other playing the part of a guard. Both suspects, who are 21 years of age, were university students from Saitama Prefecture and admitted the crime immediately after they were arrested.

The same woman co-operated in the arrest of another fraudster when she received the same type of phone call back in May.

Source: NHK News Web

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41 Comments
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Telephone ninja!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

NIce! Good to hear this, hopefully this is a sign of a trend. These young men have ruined their chance to enter the 'happiness track' of being a full time employee after college looking for some easy cash. Assuming other who commit these crimes are just opportunists, not harden criminals, his news will be a great deterrent.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well done!! Obaatyan sting operation!!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

So the con men were snookered. Well done obachan!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Glad to see that this lady had her wits about her to alert the police and get these bozos off the streets. I wonder what these college students were studying, business or politics and just doing some independent study course work on how to rip off the public?

One thing I have never understood about this scam, if a person looses money or owes a company money, why do the parents or elderly think that they have to help them pay it back? I had to have a cosigner for my house I rent since I am not Japanese, and from what I understand you have to have a cosigner for many things in Japan. If the parents/elderly didn't cosign for something, then why should they be worried? The person is an adult and should face the consequences if indeed it is a true case as an adult. I don't think you need a cosigner to verify that you will work for a company so I just don't see how people can fall for this.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One wonders how these guys got into university when they cannot figure out that maybe, just possibly, it would be a bad idea to make the cash pickup in person? Maybe they just have a really low opinion of old people?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I got one of these calls and tried to string them along until they gave me a bank account number for the deposit, but i guess I didn't sound entirely convinced that my husband had had a car accident at 10:30 am (long after he was actually at work) and they hung up mid-call.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Saitama strikes again

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Police only got the low level on the crime gang- a waste of time- need to get the higher ups who organize these crimes to make a real dent.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Alphaape - I think that scam works so well because of the need for the Japanese psyche to save face. The good appearances have to be kept up first. And since people think in groups or entities, if family member risks to be exposed, you are being exposed. As opposed to you and me they don't think about individual responsability first but the image of the group, the family. I reckon especially older people still have this mindset. But yes with all the awarness campaigns, this type of crime should be dying out ... Well done lady!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Saitama strikes again...but this time, Tokyo Strikes back! :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Viclovesdrama: I can see your point. For a closed society as much of Japan can seem to an outsider, why does one worry about what others may think. If that was her son, I wonder how many of his coworkers have actually met his parents? It seems strange to me.

I had posted in another post on a similary story about situations like these. It would seem that the criminals are playing on that same sense of "Wa" to get over on people. Those are the ones in a way who have broken free of the mindset here in Japan. But I guess they don't know their limits.

Also, why no names on these guys, they are over 20 and adults. Probably not going to help them land jobs after college.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The scam works because in Japan everything can be settled with money.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Do you really think if this is a true report? How come they didn't give the perps names?? Don't they usually give the names of the perps unless they are underage?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Good job, a crime detected! ... this pensioner should be recruited into the Japanese version of The Sweeney .... well if there is such a thing!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My guess is that the students were underage. This is a report that reads like an Agatha Christie story, with a shrewd old lady and the criminals being people you would least suspect. Who would have thought that the criminals were university students?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, it is a wonder how these are uni. students. But even they do stupid stuff. Criminal members of the Aum Shinrikyou cult went to elite universities. And even one medical dr. released sarin in a subway car.

Is it really gang related? You just need a telephone. It's not like dealing with ice. But I wonder if they can investigate phone records.

Underage students? 21 years old?

One reason why this scam works well is the the development of the braid around 75 (according to a news article). After that age in many cases you can't deal with stuff like this like you could before and this is what happens (any person/nationality, any scam, anywhere). I know someone whose job it is to support the elderly and she says a big problem is a scam when the senior "ordered" something and is coerced to pay for it when it is delivered. If you are young and genki you just tell them to screw off but at 75 it's a different story.

"The same woman co-operated in the arrest of another fraudster when she received the same type of phone call back in May. "

They should have community meetings that teach how to "accept" their proposals for financial rescue then going to the cops. Good work lady! Not everyone has the balls to do this but if there are enough them it will reduce these crimes since they know more of the "victims" will do the same thing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Alph and Vic, In Japan the family is responsible for other family members debt. If one does not pay the creditors can file against any living family member who has assets. It is a crazy law but I know first hand from experience. The cosigner is only for foreign people living in Japan. The family registry is the important thing and all debts not paid fall back on the family members in the registry. The only way to stop it is to file papers in the government office disowning the family member.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hats off to this woman. I hope more and more people do this type of thing and these stupid scams decrease. Of course, most of the time it's not a cash handout but a wire transfer, so it's a little harder to catch the people involved, but still.

And why am I not surprised they are from Saitama?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good for her! More elderly should sign up for this sort of sting. If there are enough honey traps out there, life will get difficult for the scamsters.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What I don't get is this bit:

What immediately alerted her that something was suspicious was that the caller claimed to have borrowed large sums of money from the company for which he worked, and needed help paying it back.

If it had been my mother, who also happens to be sixty-nine, what would have alerted her to the fact that something was suspicious would have been the fact that the person on the other end of the line clearly wasn't her son (i.e. me).

Are people genuinely unable to distinguish between a stranger's voice and that of a close family member?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I guess the next type of scam will be: "Your son tried to scam somebody and he can get off the hook but he has to pay off the victim/police etc. I am his lawyer and I will come to pick up the money."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well do to the lady! They should have handed her a Kendo sword and told her to tan their backsides.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good to see and I hope it is a result of the awareness campaign and not just a scam-savvy granny.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

if they did this a lot, then they have more than enough cash to pay a lawer to claim first offence

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If one does not pay the creditors can file against any living family member who has assets. It is a crazy law but I know first hand from experience.

I know Japan has some crazy laws, but this one makes no sense. Why is a family member responsible for the debt of another? Basically what this means is that someone can go and borrow a large sum, and just default and let the family take care of it. I know some families in Japan are not as close as in some western standards, maybe I see why now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why is a family member responsible for the debt of another?

This is the case only if, in case of death, the surviving family member has inherited the dead one (one inherits both pluses ans minuses), or if we are not talking about a dead person, in case of a bankruptcy, only if one family member was the legal guarantor of the bankrupt party. There is no automatic responsibility. Of course, creditors will do anything to get their money back, by harassing other family members and suing them or whatever, but legally there is no obligation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The cosigner is only for foreign people living in Japan.

This is not true. When my son, who on paper is 100% Japanese, applied for a student loan he needed a cosigner. It really isn't helpful to assume that every single inconvenience you experience in Japan is due to you not being Japanese.

If one does not pay the creditors can file against any living family member who has assets

According to this page - http://www.cash-law.com/10/017.html - there is no legal obligation to pay any other person's debts for which you have not agreed to be a guarantor.

たとえ、子供や夫婦でも、保証人や連帯保証人になっていなければ支払義務はありません。(If you are not a guarantor and have not stood joint surety for the loan, you are under no legal obligation to pay a debt, even if it was incurred by your offspring or spouse)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Correct, Cleo. I am the co-signer for all my husband's business related loans. I would be responsible if he were to default on them, but our son would not be.

The scam works because in Japan everything can be settled with money.

It would seem that the criminals are playing on that same sense of "Wa" to get over on people.

Absolutely not. These scams are happening in the US as well. The constant knee-jerk 'this could only happen in japan' comments are a bit wearing.

From the Washington State Attorney's website (one of many warning about this)

""Relatives" in need of help: You receive a desperate phone call, e-mail or even an instant message from someone posing as a grandchild or a friend. He was arrested overseas. She was mugged. Please send money right away. Except it’s not who you think – it’s a con artist.

How to protect yourself: Call the friend or relative claiming to need your help to confirm whether the story is true, using a phone number you know to be genuine. If you aren’t able to contact the person, call other friends or family members to confirm the situation. Refuse to send money via wire transfer."
4 ( +4 / -0 )

Well done to the woman, but I'm surprised that she wasn't replaced by a female police officer.

Unless the con men knew what she looked like, but given how little they knew about her son, that seems unlikely.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There have been 40,000 cases of the 'Grandparent Scam' in the US since 2009.

" Ann and John Mykietyn never imagined they could be duped out of thousands of dollars. But then, last fall, they got a call from someone claiming to be their grandson, Daniel, that threw them into two days of panic.

He told them he had been in a car accident while at a bachelor party in Mexico and needed $1,800 to get out of jail. The next day, he called back frantic that his wallet had been stolen and he needed $2,400 to get a new passport.

Anxious to help their grandson return home, they sent two MoneyGram cash transfers to Mexico. They even sent a third after a man called claiming one of the transfers had been rejected. But when they never heard back, they realized that the caller hadn't been their grandson after all. The New Jersey residents had lost nearly $7,000 to a scammer.

"You get angry at yourself for being so foolish, but you're in a panic mode," Ann Mykietyn said. "You don't want any harm to your grandchild. "

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Does anyone know if these two were working alone or if they were part of an elaborate mafia network (as is often the case)?. If there were others, I hope the get those higher up criminals Hawaii Five-0 style!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hope they get them, too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Go get em :-) Now I hope Police use the same technology to wipe out prostitution.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Similar scams work in other countries. It's not only Japan. Good going Obaasan

1 ( +1 / -0 )

wow she got'em goooooooooood

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@nishikat... passing exams and getting into a top uni doesn't automatically imbue one with common sense. I used to work for the Student Loans Company in the UK and some of those top students were as thick as pigsh*t.

I'm glad that this elderly lady was able to turn the tables on the scum who scam the pensioners out of their hard earned money. More power to yer elbow missus!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@dnaleri

I guess the next type of scam will be: "Your son tried to scam somebody and he can get off the hook but he has to pay off the victim/police etc. I am his lawyer and I will come to pick up the money."

Exactly, something similar is happening in my country, where the scammers try to pass as an authority saying that the relative, (son, nephew, young brother) got into an accident (i.e. car crash) and he´s guilty or he's going to jail be he can get off by paying some money. This routine is based in two things that the person would believe, 1st, the relative is in real trouble and second that the "authority" would actually take a bribe.

Another scams are: hey you won XXX money, but you have to buy calling prepaid cards to obtain the money. others are that they are giving prizes at the mall or a shop in order to lure you out of the house. And the worst thing is when the manipulate the person into giving real information, for example "auntie, I just recently started to work at this company but you know my mom.." tricking the person into say the name of the "mom" and then gaining information about work habits, routines at home, and valued possessions.. so in the elderly it is easier to trick...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are all sorts of scams. Good for this lady for helping catch a few of them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Both suspects, who are 21 years of age, were university students from Saitama Prefecture

and you think that tuition money daddy is paying will be reimbursed? Nope, I am laughing at you fools as I continue to pay my school loans many years on and you are behind bars.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am interested in the cases in the US or perhaps Canada. It seems like the amounts handed over in Japan are for a lot more money, though--often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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