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Doll becomes ally in fight against 'ore-ore' phone scams

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It keeps happening, the statistics rise and rise, warnings fall on deaf ears – is there no defense against the rampant ore-ore telephone fraud that targets the elderly in particular?

There may be, says Shukan Josei (June 19), and like many great ideas, no sooner do you hear of it than you wonder why nobody thought of it before – why you yourself didn’t, for that matter.

 This particular great idea is a doll that looks like a little girl. She talks rather like one too. She says, “If it’s someone asking for money it’s fraud, don’t trust just anyone, call the police” – and so on. Her name is Anshinmi-chan.” Anshin means relief, peace of mind.

Police, media, banks have been issuing warnings for years. The phone rings: “Hi, it’s me (ore da! – suggesting a close family relationship) – listen, I’m in trouble, I need money, please, hurry, transfer x hundred thousand (or million) yen to my bank, here’s the account number….” Variations on that theme, increasingly sophisticated, have proved irresistible, especially to elderly people living alone and easily confused. The demanded bank transfer is soon made, no questions asked. The National Police Agency reports 2,285 incidents nationwide during the first quarter of this year alone, the amount bilked totaling some 4.5 billion yen.

Warnings have been surprisingly ineffectual, but Anshinmi-chan’s are different – not so much the words as where they come from. “She’s like my grandchild,” says Sumiko Anma, 85, who plainly enjoys the little pixie’s company.

Anma lives in Shizuoka Prefecture, where Anshinmi’s career as a crime-fighter began. Her maker, Tokyo-based toy manufacturer Partners, had quite other plans for her. She was designed as a toy, pure and simple. A Shizuoka police officer happened to see it on TV and thought, “Why not enlist her?” A local NPO worked at getting the word out, and the 405 households who took her in report zero cases of fraud since. The phone rings. Anshinmi-chan, sitting beside the phone, pipes up her message or messages – she has nine in all. The householder is alerted without being made to feel patronized or intruded upon, which is the effect  more impersonal warnings seem to have. “Like a member of the family,” says Anma.

There’s something about a doll, Shukan Josei hears from Tsuruga College of Nursing professor Aiko Hatano, that’s comforting.  Its presence stimulates relaxation hormones in the brain. But dolls are not the only allies in the fight against ore-ore. Another is a device called Fraud Busters. You install it in your telephone. If a call comes in you’re not sure about, you have numerous options. One button delivers a message: “I’ll call you back after I discuss the matter with my family.” Another releases a sound like a police siren. There are 12 options in all, including an all-purpose one if you’re too agitated to choose – it makes the choice for you. This might be just the thing for people like a 68-year-old man the magazine speaks to. He lives alone and recognizes himself as a potential ore-ore target, but a doll is not his kind of company. “A doll I don’t need,” he grumbles.

 There’s a more scientific objection to Anshinmi-chan, expressed by Rissho University psychologist Kimiaki Nishida. “A warning constantly repeated,” he says, “eventually loses its impact.”

© Japan Today

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Why? I simply make my ringtone default to silent without sound and vibrate. Set up ringtone for phone numbers in my contact list, so I simply ignore all calls not in my contact list. If it is important, the person will leave message in my mailbox; otherwise, I do not care.

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