Scams in Japan target elderly, people hungry for quick cash

By David Higgins

The number of slick-talking con-artists is rising in Japan, according to police statistics.

The number of slick-talking con-artists is rising in Japan, according to police statistics.

Most people think of Japan as a peaceful, safe and honest place, but, as any other country, it has its share of scammers, crooks and fraudsters. Lately, there has been plenty of news about these crooks targeting senior citizens and scamming them to wire over significant sums of money.

The most famous of these phone scams is known as the ‘Ore ore sagi‘ which translates to ‘It’s me, scam.‘ The fraudsters behind this scam prey specifically on elderly victims. They contact the unsuspecting seniors and pretend to be a relative in dire need of financial help to emancipate them from a threatening situation.

Pretending to be a young relative in trouble, the conmen target mostly the elderly.

Pretending to be a young relative in trouble, the conmen target mostly the elderly.

Surely you have used an ATM in Japan and noticed the abundance of warning signs posted around the machine, advising us to take care not to fall victim to this scam. However, it seems that the more the authorities attempt to thwart the criminals through increased public awareness, the more effort that the tricksters devote to refining their techniques. The total fraud amount nation wide for 2014 was ¥40.4 billion, and for 2015, it increased to ¥48.9 billion.

In the latest incarnation of the fraud, instead of pretending to be a relative in desperate need of money they prey on people’s desire to make a quick buck. They solicit themselves as stockbrokers, urging unsuspecting individuals to purchase corporate stocks or bonds issued by a construction firm contracted for the Tokyo Olympics. They offer their victims an immediate opportunity to buy bonds, which will then be purchased back at a premium within a compressed amount of time. The scammer urges the victim to immediately send the money via cash registered mail with the promise that the bond certificates will be mailed off to them in the morning. Unfortunately, I think we all can guess how this one ends.

Posters warning about frauds are often appearing near bank teller machines.

Posters warning about frauds are often appearing near bank teller machines.

Another popular scam involves hijacking a persons LINE ID and sending a text message such as “Have you got a minute? My father has been in an accident, and I’m on the way to the hospital. I need ¥100,000 to cover his treatment. Can you lend it to me? Here’s the account number. I’m with a friend and the account is in his name. He’ll withdraw it for me.”

These types of thefts are facilitated by our own sloppiness when we are setting up passwords. Often, computer and smartphone users rely on the same passwords for multiple applications from email, social media, and online shopping accounts. This is the best way to open yourself up to become the next best victim of techno-scammers.

In Japan, you are fortunate if you are an English speaking person because the scammers have yet to develop English speaking scams. If you are a resident of Japan and have a Japanese bank account with your wife, it is best to set a limit on how much can be withdrawn from your account each day so that you can more easily monitor it and prevent the chances that you and your loved ones fall victim to one of these banking scams that can quickly suck your bank account dry.

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