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I read the other day about a 73-year-old lady who had been tricked into giving some conmen a huge amount of money. Apparently, she thought she was giving it to help her nephew.
For the benefit of Kattie (and any other readers outside Japan), this type of crime has become known as the “ore, ore sagi.” “Ore, ore” means “It’s me, it’s me.” The way it works is that the conmen find a vulnerable old person and then call them pretending to be a relative. They make up some story about why they need money urgently, and then arrange some way of collecting it.
I must admit that I thought this kind of scam no longer happened in Japan. There has been a huge amount of attention given to it in the media, and all the banks have warnings on their cash machines telling old people to check before they make any payments.
Many Westerners are surprised when they hear about this kind of scam. They ask questions like “Doesn’t the old person know the voices of their own family members?” and “Why don’t they call someone else in the family to check?”
I guess the answer to the first question is that when they hear someone saying “It’s me,” some old people might be frightened to admit that they don’t recognise the voice. The answer to the second is probably that the con men make up some story about how it would be embarrassing for anyone else in the family to find out about their problems. And of course, the con men are experts in what they do.
One reason this scam works in Japan is that a lot of old people have huge amounts of savings. I read another story last week about a 96-year-old man who was found wandering around an airport in a confused state with enough cash in his bag to buy a house. Apparently, he had had a fight with his 89-year-old wife and decided to leave her and buy a house of his own, but he got lost while trying to get to Hokkaido! It is also quite common to hear stories of huge piles of cash being found in houses and apartments after people have died.
Anyway, I was wondering whether any of you or anyone you know has been called by one of these con men. If you have, did you report it to the police? What happened? I’m also interested to know what steps Japanese people are taking to protect their elderly relatives from this kind of scam.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
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