According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, during 2011, victims of scams lost 12,781,790,000 yen to swindlers -- an average of 2.14 million yen per victim. About 70% of these scams were of the so-called "It's me, send money" variety, in which the criminal poses as a family member.
Flash (May 8-15) introduces Akio Fujino (a pseudonym), a member of a group of swindlers active since 2003, and author of the non-fiction work "'Ore-ore, ore,' Akuma no Sasayaki" (Me, me -- whisper of the Devil," Kobunsha, 1,365 yen) released on April 24.
Fujino began his life of crime while still a high school student, when he was recruited by upperclassmen at his school and became involved in so-called "catch sales" (swindles conducted by soliciting people on the street).
After he dropped out of school, Fujino worked for a casino, and then drifted into loan sharking. But after just two months, a new opportunity knocked. A man known as Yuji Saeki picked up a cell phone and demonstrated his technique.
"Grandma? It's me. I've been having money problems. It seems that I was driving without a license and I got involved in a bad accident and, uh, I was wondering if you could let me have 400,000 yen?"
"Grandma will be remitting the money to me soon," Saeki winked to Fujino.
"Eh? You're kidding, right? It can't be that easy, can it?"
But the next day the money appeared in the account Saeki had opened in a small savings and loan just for this purpose.
Within a few days, everyone else in the loan shark office was imitating Saeki's technique, and that was the birth of the scam. On the average, each employee was raking in 700,000 yen per day.
"My system went like this," says Fujino. "On weekday mornings from after 9 until 11, I would make the first call. This was for one of two reasons. The first was that at that time of morning the only people likely to be home were full-time housewives and the elderly, who tend to be easier to swindle than people employed at companies. The second reason for making calls in the morning was that left enough time to transfer the money within the same day. If they hadn't made the transfer by then, it was likely they would discuss the call with family members who came home from work that evening, and the chances of success dropped off."
In some cases, Fujino would make a second call to the targeted victim about an hour after the first.
"Then one evening about three months after we began the scam, we were relaxing in the office when we heard an unexpected announcement on the TV news: 'At noon today, police arrested members of a criminal group in Tokyo's Suginami Ward for defrauding people into remitting money to bank accounts.'"
"What! It seemed that another outfit using the same technique as ours had been nabbed by the police."
Worried about being caught in the police crackdown, Fujino's team broke up two months later, but he found the profits were so good he was unable to wean himself away from the job. Saeki had told him, "Being the one who created this scam, I feel like I own the patent for it. Shouldn't we keep it up?"
"But a lot of the other crooks have been nabbed. Isn't it getting dangerous?" Fujino countered.
"Don't worry -- I've got a way to ensure we'll never get caught."
This method involved using an ex-yakuza in Nagasaki named Kato, who used phony ID to set up bank accounts in that city. The transferred cash was shipped in bundles from Kyushu to a post office box in Tokyo's Shibuya district, collected by a messenger and delivered to Saeki in person.
This method lasted until January 2004, but was hastily halted when Kato was arrested. Then on Feb 23, detectives arrested Saeki and Fujino on suspicion of fraud.
Fujino was convicted and served three years in prison. He says since his release he has gone straight, working for the family business. His father sold off the family's land to pay his son's legal fees and reimburse the victims.© Japan Today