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'It's me, send money' scam creator tells his story in new book

31 Comments

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

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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Usually in every country people have their own new ideas of scam i have red so many emails in which people without no identity ask me to help their self for investing and get money. I see one thing common in that they try to realized that they are investing money and we are the owner. Some times it make me laugh but now i am getting my email protected by http://enhanced-identity-theft-protection.com/advanced-identity-theft-protection/ so there is nothing to worry about now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The profits from the book should be used to reimburse the victims and then some!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Grannies have bad hearing. Women panic more easily. Japanese housewives rule the family budget. And japanese language is based on situation, not words.

Be careful.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like the african price scam better

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A man known as Yuji Saeki picked up a cell phone and demonstrated his technique. Grandma? It is me. I have been having money problems.

It's funny how this leech Fujino (or whatever his real name is) seems so proud of inventing the scam, when he wasn't even the one who invented it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oikawa, I of course can't address irishosaru's case, but I have heard of cases where similar information was gleaned from information on Facebook, Mixi, or similar social network sites, whose account holders weren't sufficiently careful about which personal/family information was available to the general public and which only to actual friends/family.

I've also heard of scammers acquiring information from school alumni or professional association records and the like, wherein sometimes a little too much personal information is included and some of the people who are supposed to control the data are either insufficiently wary or insufficiently honest.

I agree that frequent contact, even by phone, among relatives would probably reduce at least some of the risk, but it's not always so easy to recognize voices over the phone, depending on how good the connection is and on how good one's hearing is.

These criminals can be very skillful at playing on and magnifying fear and turning it into panic, and they lose little by many failures, but stand to gain a lot even from a very small percentage of successes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Maybe if families spent more time talking to each other then grannie would know the sound of her boy's voice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

irishosaru - how on earth would they have known your wife's, wife's sister's, mother's, and aunt's names? That's a much more advanced scam than an "ore ore" call. They wouldn't need to just say "ore" then, they could make it even more believable by saying "It's Satoshi" or whatever. Anyway your case sounds more like a vicious personal targeted attack to me. Much worse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fadamor:

The account number does not help, because of course they are fake accounts set up precisely for that purpose. Of course, if you could bamboozle the scammer into picking up the cash in person, that would make for a juicy situation.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The government should encourage anyone receiving such a call to take the information down then instead of sending money to the account, send the account number to the police and let them deal with it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A couple of years ago one of those guys called my home phone and delivered his "Ore-ore da, jitsu wa..." routine to my answering device's recorder, for several minutes before he finally gave up. This is after the device played my "You've reached the [recognizably foreign name] residence, please leave a message or send a fax" message...in English (which I use instead of Japanese to discourage telephone sales calls).

He doesn't seem to have been the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

I really wish that I'd been home when the cretin called; it could have been a very amusing conversation.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What a scumbag.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My wife got a call from one of these people a few months ago, pretending to be her sister. They were well prepared - they knew her name, her sister's name, mother and aunt too. When my wife asked the female caller her mother's maiden name, the caller immediately hung up.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

given the generally abysmal level of acting on Japanese TV, then that 'stooge' was a brilliant actor

It's all in the method.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

timeon - It could be - but given the generally abysmal level of acting on Japanese TV, then that 'stooge' was a brilliant actor!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cleo, many of those TV shows are scripted, so I'm not sure if that one was for real (I've worked for a while in the business)

I don't think the scammers have a huge success rate. but if you make a few hundred calls a day and get one person it's enough.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

His father sold off the family’s land to pay his son’s legal fees and reimburse the victims.

The son is true scum to the max.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Vinnyfav: "such scams have not seen as much widespread success overseas." - There's quite a few successful ones, namely the 419 scams and identity theft. Old/elderly folks (in the US) have been conned out of personal and credit card information over the telephone and email putting the victim deep into debt. Different method, same result. No matter the publicity and warnings, there's always someone, somewhere gullible enough to believe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This scam is very interesting, especially given the Japanese linguistic features of multiple words for pronouns. Or maybe because of that. By common sense, you would think it would be easier to identify your own family members from strangers over a phone because there are so many more ways to say "I" in Japan (Ore, Boku, Watashi etc) and some people even use their own names (ie. speaking in third-person) when talking to close members of their family.

Yet somehow, the statistics show that such scams are easily pulled off in Japan, despite wide-spread media coverage. In almost every culture, people tend to panic and lose their sense of reason when there is the possibility of their family members being in grave trouble. Yet somehow, such scams have not seen as much widespread success overseas. At least, so far as I know. It has to be something to do with the way the Japanese language works in identifying oneself to others via pronouns - the very fundamental of the scam is based on the "ore" pronoun in most cases.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Cleo - Riggghhhtt? My mom usually doesn't have a sense of humor, but that was hilarious. And yes, I am the only one. LOL!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Gurukun - Good one! I take it you don't have any brothers?

SpanisEyez37 -

I don't mean to sound stupid, but I really don't get how folks can be so easily bamboozled

You'd think so, wouldn't you? They showed on telly a while back how easy it was to get sucked in; they had someone who was supposed to appear on the programme to talk about scams (so you'd think it would be uppermost in their minds) - and while the person was in the dressing room waiting to go on, they got a phone call (rigged by the TV people) saying that their partner had been involved in a traffic accident, damaging some very expensive car that had to be paid for immediately. To people watching it was obviously a scam, but it was as if the person being scammed was hypnotised or something; within minutes they were looking for ways to send money, without checking directly with the partner or anything. Even after they had been told it was a scam rigged up deliberately for the programme, the person was worrying about whether the partner was injured, in police custody, etc., - and about where to send the money.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

My mother got one of those types of phone calls about two years ago saying that her son had been arrested and one million yen was required to be depositied to post bail. When the money was depositied, the police would let him make one phone call from the police station to explain.

...the problem was, I was sitting in the living room with her when she got this call. LOL!

...So my mom told the guy to tell her son (me), to rot behind bars and die for what ever he did to get arrested in the first place and slammed the phone down. That was hilarious.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

How stupid can you be just to send money to someone on the basis of a phone call

-1 ( +4 / -4 )

I'm always astounded at how the scammers pull it off. Don't the grannies or mamas ask questions? Or do the scammers know that their targets have sons?

I don't mean to sound stupid, but I really don't get how folks can be so easily bamboozled.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

His father sold off the family’s land to pay his son’s legal fees and reimburse the victims.

A real man.

@yasukuni

I understand your sentiment but I hope the book does some good. As for him, he's done his time and seems determined to mend his ways. Without knowing him personally, I can only hope that he is sincerely trying to make things right. It would be good if the profits of the book went to the victims.

It does not say whether the victims were fully reimbursed, but even if they were, they deserve what they can get from him considering what they have been through.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There have been copycat attempts in other countries. I heard about a foxy grandpa in Taiwan who transferred the princely sum of one yen (in local currency) to the crook's account, and then notified the police, who pounced when he went to make a withdrawal from an ATM.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I thought the 419 scams were bad, but at least those guys shows some ingenuity.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Scam creator scams people with rubbish book.

5 ( +5 / -1 )

I hope nobody buys this book. Ore ore criminals are the lowest.

7 ( +8 / -2 )

His father sold off the family’s land to pay his son’s legal fees and reimburse the victims. I wish I had a father like that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

His father sold off the family’s land to pay his son’s legal fees and reimburse the victims.

Ore-ore, ore, Papa, it's me, I've be busted for being a thief and you need to send money!

13 ( +13 / -1 )

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