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Emotional fraud again slipping into Okinawa

Date Posted: 2004-11-12

The phone rings, and the man hears a caller claiming to be his daughter. She’s in trouble, and wants help.

It’s a scam, but emotional appeals to distraught people on Okinawa often work. In this case, the woman claimed to have struck a 12-year-old boy with her car, nearly killing him. She then gives the phone to a man claiming to be her attorney, who says the daughter is in prison, and he needs ¥900,000 ($8,740) to get her free.

Five calls came within an hour, ending with one saying the boy had died, and the price for help jumped to ¥1,500,000 ($14,560) plus an additional amount for the hospital and other things. The bottom line was a demand for ¥6,400,000 ($62,135).

Amidst the crying and the stress, the victim thought it was his daughter, so he transferred the money as directed. All of it.

Hours later, when his daughter walked into the house, he was stunned. Questions about how she got out of jail so quickly shocked her, as she told her father she’d not called home. Asked why he didn’t call the jail, he told his stunned daughter he didn’t know he could.

He wasn’t the first, and police say he won’t be the last.

The fraud calls began some three years ago, but police had thought the perpetrators had moved on. They haven’t.

“Hi, it’s me, your son. I have a problem.” Those words from a man to his 50-year-old father last weekend ended with ¥640,000 ($6,210) being given to a ripoff artist. “I sent the money”, the man said, “then found out the the phone call was not real.”

Police caution citizens never to give out money without taking time to check the circumstances thoroughly. Make independent calls to the purported friend or relative to confirm the situation. Call police and check. Ask specific questions about age, date of birth, pets and school that only the real son, daughter, husband or wife would know about.

Most of all, they say, be patient. Don’t rush to the bank and give away the money.

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