“Mom, it’s me. Listen, I left my briefcase on the train. I’m calling from a colleague’s phone, so if you get a call from the station lost and found, it’s legit.”
Ten minutes later, the phone rings again. “Such-and-such Station. A briefcase has been turned in… ah, it’s yours? Your son’s? Very well. We need to confirm his identity: name? address? place of business?... Excellent, thank you, please have your son pick it up anytime.”
A few minutes later the “son” calls again. “Was there a phone call?” “Yes!” says mom, as excited and relieved as though she’d found the briefcase herself. “They’re waiting for you, you can pick it up anytime.” “Thanks mom, that’s great, whew!”
Then, a fourth call. “It’s me, mom, listen, I had a check in the bag, it’s missing, must’ve been stolen, I need that money to make a payment immediately, 3 million yen… mom, please, it’s urgent, it can’t wait, can you lend me 3 million yen? I’ll pay you back immediately, I just... Thanks mom, I knew I could count on you – listen, I’m tied up at the moment, I’ll have a colleague drop by and pick it up, okay?”
How many stories of this kind have we heard over the years? Each year for the past seven years has seen between 7,000 and 8,000 cases of the famous ore-ore scam. Ore is an informal form of the pronoun “I”. Spoken over the telephone, rapidly, in a muffled voice (easily explained by a cold or something), ore-ore implies, “Hi mom, it’s me.” Then comes a flow of feverish and desperate talk that bamboozles the listener into parting with cash to get the supposed loved one out of a dire predicament. Caller and money then vanish together into the void, the victim – almost always elderly – left to rue his or her innocence in a rapidly changing and increasingly predatory world.
It’s been around so long now – at least since 2009 – that you’d think even the most naïve would be on their guard, but techniques are growing so ingenious and sophisticated, says Shukan Josei (March 3), that it’s becoming almost impossible to distinguish sincerity from robbery.
Fraudsters attack from so many angles that it sometimes seems the only self-defense is the total closure of all means of communication with the outside world.
The doorbell rings: “Good afternoon, we’re checking houses in the neighborhood for earthquake resistance” – or water damage resistance, or whatever natural disaster has been in the news lately. “Free of charge… may we? Thank you… ah, yes, to be sure, your home is vulnerable; in an earthquake of magnitude such-and-such these pillars would buckle, this section of the foundation would crumble… Act now and benefit from our one-time-only deep discount; if you wait, you’ll end up paying twice as much.”
An email arrives: “Your use of such-and-such a website has accumulated such-and-such an amount of unpaid charges. Please settle this at your earliest convenience so that court action will not be necessary.” You might panic and send the demanded payment immediately, or you may ignore it, in which case an official-looking document may arrive snail-mail: “You are hereby notified that a civil suit has been initiated against you. If you do not respond, the required fees will be seized from your wages.” You can still ignore it, but not without a sense of entering dangerously deep waters.
Then there’s the famous appo-den fraud – appo for appointment, den for denwa, telephone – rising sharply over the past few years, says Shukan Josei.
The phone rings. “M. So-and-so? This is Such-and-Such Bank. I regret to inform you that we have reason to believe someone has accessed your account. We are therefore taking the precaution of temporarily freezing the account while we investigate the situation. Do you have a safe at home, or some other place where you can safely keep your funds?”
A fast and glib talker – you don’t go into this business if you’re not one – can easily worm the desired information out of a confused and frightened, probably elderly victim, out of touch with the rapid changes occurring in the outside world, preparatory to breaking into the house to and robbing it. It’s riskier than other methods, but it has this advantage: It gives the victim no time for second thoughts or consultation with skeptical family or friends, to say nothing of the police.© Japan Today