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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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21 Comments

  1. Fumie on Tuesday August 6th, 2013 at 06:31 AM

    Hi David and everyone,

    How is your back? I hope you are okay now.

    Regarding the topic, fortunately, I don’t know anyone who had been called by these con men. My mother is living alone in a kind of big house so she often being annoyed by sales people but she has never been a victim of Ore, ore Sagi.
    When I hear those stories, I can’t believe why older people been fooled such lies and why they didn’t check before they send money to con men. Even though, they heard those news and warnings often, still they are fooled. Their techniques must be through.
    I’ve never heard of con women: watashi, watashi sagi. Is it typical of men to do such crimes? I wonder if a woman who is pretending to be someone’s daughter called them to send her money, what would they do? 娘と名乗る人が親にお金をせがんで来たら、同様にそれを信じて送金したりするんでしょうか?

    Hi YU,

    I’m glad to hear that you had a wonderful time in Osaka.:-)
    Actually, you know many good places more than I do. I’ve never heard of だるまの串カツ、くくるのタコ焼き and Tiger Copenhagen, neither have I been any of these places. So thanks for the information!



  2. Fumie on Tuesday August 6th, 2013 at 06:34 AM

    Hi David and everyone,

    How is your back? I hope you are okay now.

    Regarding the topic, fortunately, I don’t know anyone who had been called by these con men. My mother is living alone in a kind of big house so she often being annoyed by sales people but she has never been a victim of Ore, ore Sagi.
    When I hear those stories, I can’t believe why older people been fooled such lies and why they didn’t check before they send money to con men. Even though, they heard those news and warnings often, still they are fooled. Their techniques must be through.
    I’ve never heard of watashi, watashi sagi. Is it typical of men to do such crimes? I wonder if a woman who is pretending to be someone’s daughter called them to send her money, what would they do? 娘と名乗る人が両親にお金をせがんでも、その人を信じてお金を送金してしまったりするのでしょうか?

    Hi YU,

    I’m glad to hear that you had a wonderful time in Osaka.:-)
    Actually, you know many good places more than I do. I’ve never heard of だるまの串カツ、くくるのタコ焼き and Tiger Copenhagen, neither have I been any of these places. So thanks for the information!



  3. Fumie on Tuesday August 6th, 2013 at 06:39 AM

    Hi everyone,

    I’m sorry.
    I sent same two comments. When I checked after I sent the first one, it said error and my comment didn’t appear my so I sent it again. But after I sent the second one, the first one is also appeared. I wonder why?



  4. Biwa on Tuesday August 6th, 2013 at 09:19 AM

    Hi everyone,

    Honestly speaking, I couldn’t really believe why so many old people have been easily taken in. As David said, there has been a lot of warning being given by the media, banks, police and the society. However, I came to admit that these conmen are real experts after hearing what happened to my friends’ parents.

    One case, fortunately, ended up in an attempt. My friend’s father who was living alone received a phone call from a man saying that his(her father’s) insurance had matured, and that he won’t be able to receive the money if he didn’t go to the bank right away. So his father rushed to the bank ATM with his bank book, bank card and ‘inkan.’ However, he was really lucky because he took a taxi to the bank and excitedly told the taxi-driver why he was in such a hurry. The taxi-driver felt something weird, and told him to go to the bank and ask for advice instead of going to the ATM directly.

    The other case is a real tragedy. My friend is living right next door to her mother’s. Actually, they are living in the same ground. Her mother received a call from her grandson (who was actually one of those conmen) half crying that he had made a mistake at work, and that he had caused a loss in the company’s money. Of course, the conman didn’t forget to ask her to keep it a secret as he didn’t want anyone to know about his failure. Also, as David said, she had been keeping several millions of yen in her closet(!), so she told her grandson that she would help him and that he didn’t have to worry at all. (It’s the same old story, isn’t it?) The scary part of this story is that the conman (pretending to be her grandson’s co-worker) actually came to her house to receive the money, and that my friend was in her house(next door) at the very moment. If she had noticed that there was a strager at her mother’s house, she might have been able to prevent the scam. Old people are vulnerable to the phrase ‘Help, I’m in a real hurry!’ They just easily get in a panic. And the conmen are real psychological experts!

    Anyway, I told these stories to my mother who is also living alone. I also told her that her grandsons will never ask her for money, and to be sure to call me first before payment.



  5. Biwa on Tuesday August 6th, 2013 at 09:36 AM

    Sorry, ‘there has been a lot of warning being given…’ should be ‘there have been a lot of warnings being given…’



  6. Biwa on Tuesday August 6th, 2013 at 09:52 AM

    Sorry again!
    I just forgot to add ‘mobile phone’ to the things the conman told my friend’s father to bring to the ATM. Surely, the conman was going to give her father instructions how to operate the ATM to receive his insurance money, which was finally going to end up in a payment instead. (It’s quite difficult to explain a crime in English, isn’t it!)



  7. Biwa on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 07:41 AM

    Hi everyone,

    I know it looks pretty awful to send three corrections in a row, but I realized that my sentence was still weird. 🙁

    ‘there have been a lot of warnings being given…’⇒’there have been a lot of warnings given…’ or ‘A lot of warnings have been given…’ (I might be wrong again…)

    Hi Fumie and YU,

    By the way, I’m going to Osaka, too. I won’t be able to visit any touristy areas, though. My elder son is going to participate in the Beach Volleyball Competition(全国大会) from Friday, so his teammates, my husband and I, and his partner’s parents are all going there to support them. The competition is going to be held in Tannowa(淡輪), which is in the very southern part of Osaka prefecture. (I couldn’t read 淡輪 at first, I thought it was あわわ!) I hope he and his partner can win through the tournament! They will need to be tougher than ever because it is forecasted to be extremely hot during this weekend. They will have several games a day, so I really hope their legs don’t get cramped!



  8. YU on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Hi David,

    Sorry, this is nothing to do with the topic, but may I ask you a question?

    1. When you say “チケット2枚” in English, do you say “two sheet(s) of ticket(s)”?

    FYI, I usually say “two tickets”, but a student of mine wrote “two sheet of ticket”, so I’m wondering if you say that in English.

    2. Which is correct?

    a. two sheet of ticket
    b. two sheets of ticket
    c. two sheets of tickets

    I know you say, for example, “two loaves of whole wheat bread” or “a bunch of bananas”, so I’m guessing “C” is correct.



  9. Anne on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I was called by conmen a couple of years ago not once but three times!
    Actually, I was thinking not to leave a comment this week because I’m busy at the moment, but why can I skip this week’s topic?

    As David mentioned the police and the media have made people aware of this type of fraud, but there are still a lot of cases of elderly people being scammed becasue the conmen have became smarter and have changed the way of paying or the story. Sometimes, the conmen say that they are from the pension office and ask pensioners to show their bank notes or cards to confirm their pensions.

    When I got the first one (it was about my elder son.), I thought my son’s voice sounded different, so I asked, “What happened? Your voice sounds different.” Then the guy answered, “Yeah, I caught a cold. Mum, I messed up and am in trouble at the office. When is dad coming back home?” The guy didn’t ask any money at that time. I have to admit that my heart was pounding when I heard my son was in trouble, but at the next moment, I came to my senses. Why did he call my home phone not my cell phone? Was he in trouble at the office?( he said”会社.”) My son doesn’t work for one of the branches of tennis school (company?) and usually doesn’t say “会社.” Anyway, I continued talking with the guy, and he said he was going to call again in the evening. After that, I went out shopping, and after returning home, I found another ten calls from that guy. I am not sure what he was going to say or ask next, but that was my first experience.

    The second and the third one happened on the two consecutive days. One was concerning my elder son, and the other was concerning my younger son. The conmen seemed to have used the name lists of my sons’s junior high school. I wrote down the phone numbers and gave them the information to the police office. The member of the staff said, “Thank you for calling. Actually, these last couple of days, I have been getting a lot of the same kind of phone calls, and all of them are graduates from xxx junior high school.”
    Since I knew it was a fraud, I was just curious about what he was going to say, but it was weird that he knew my younger son’s habit(?) of ordering books online because the guy said, “Mum, are you at home today? Please sign for the book I ordered.” If someone said to you, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that the call was from your son, right? Anyway, I wasn’t asked for any money by them because I went out and didn’t answer their calls they did afterwards, however it might be the start of the scams.

    I partly understand why people are deceived; just after hearing that her beloved son was in trouble, a mother’s good sense might be overcome by her feelings!

    Hi Fumie,
    >. Is it typical of men to do such crimes?
    Yes, you have a point. I’m always have a same question. I guess the conmen think men are vulnerble and tend to be in trouble.

    Hi Biwa,
    Good luck with your son’s team. Also, please becareful with the heat stroke!



  10. David on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Hi Biwa and Anne,

    Thanks for sharing your stories. It seems that this kind of scam is really common. I guess it works on the same principle as email scams, which is that if you try it on thousands of people, sooner or later you will find someone who falls for it.

    Hi YU,

    チケット2枚 is two tickets. We only use “sheet” or “book” of tickets when there are many of them together. An example would be the 回数券 you get at a ski resort.

    Hope that helps.



  11. YU on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 04:31 PM

    Hi David,

    It was a great help, thank you very much!

    Hi Fumie,

    > Actually, you know many good places more than I do. I’ve never heard of だるまの串カツ、くくるのタコ焼き and Tiger Copenhagen

    Actually, I learned everything from a guidebook called “るるぶ”!!

    Hi Biwa,

    I felt it was much hotter in Kanasai than Kanto, so be careful!
    Good luck to your son!!

    Hi David and everyone,

    I don’t know anyone around me who has been called by conmen. If my parents were still alive, both of them would be over 70 now. Fortunately(?), they have died before “Ore Ore Sagi” was going around, but I wonder if they had been falled a victim, too.

    > One reason this scam works in Japan is that a lot of old people have huge amounts of savings.
    > It is also quite common to hear stories of huge piles of cash being found in houses and apartments after people have died.

    That is very true.
    I guess it has a lot to do with the national character of Japanese people. I think Japanese people do a lot of worrying, so they feel relieved when they have savings.

    Just last night I watched a TV program featuring a Japanese woman married a Samoan. They live in Samoa with his family(10 people!). She complained that Samoans were totally unconcerned about money and they never thought about saving.
    Her husband has spent almost all of his salary on his payday to buy something for himself or to treat his neighbors, he even has lent the rest to his relative in trouble next evening, so she ended up with managing on only 5 dollars(!) until his next payday in two weeks. I thought it was just the case of her husband, but it seemed that most Samoans were like this.
    To my surprise, she said that she was still happy because everyone helped with each other in Samoa, although she never understood their sense of money at all. I kind of understand her.

    I know Somans’ case is a bit extreme, but finally, I don’t know which is better, worry about your future and die with a lot of savings without spending it or live a relaxed life, spend all money you have for your family, friends and yourself when you’re alive and die peacefully. It might be better for your kids and relatives to leave your money, though.
    I feel I’ve heard that Japanese parents tend to leave their property as much as possible for their children, but it is not the case in the rest of the world.

    I’ve also heard that those con men groups usually buy a list of rich older people or easy victims(カモリスト) from list dealers(リスト業者). Some of the leaders of those groups are very sharp. I always wonder why they don’t think of using their brains and effort for something nicer!

    > 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.

    I think the same way as you at the moment, but I’m not confident in myself if I still have such a clear head even when I get 70 or over. I can’t believe that a stingy woman like me pays money to a stranger for no reason, but you really don’t know what you will do when you get older and confused, do you?
    I think that is one of the reasons why elderly people are always targets.



  12. Anne on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 04:56 PM

    corrections:

    >My son doesn’t work for one of the branches of tennis school (company?)—→My son works for(at?) one of the branches of tennis school (company?)

    I wanted to say, “息子はテニススクールのいくつかあるうちの一つの支店で働いている.” Does my sentence make sense?

    Hi Biwa,
    >she had been keeping several millions of yen in her closet(!), —Wow! What a huge amount of money! If I were to prepare some money for my son, I can’t do that…

    By the way, I received three phone calls, and whenever I hear these kinds of stories, I wonder if I’m in the category of elderly people. I was still in my 50s when I received them!



  13. David on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 05:00 PM

    Hi Anne,

    Do you mean “My son works at one of several branches of the tennis school”?

    Actually, it might be clearer to say “The tennis school has several branches, and my son works at one of them.”



  14. David on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 05:04 PM

    Hi YU,

    “I feel I’ve heard that Japanese parents tend to leave their property as much as possible for their children, but it is not the case in the rest of the world.”

    In Britain, older people now sometimes say to each other as a joke “We went SKIing last week.” SKI stands for “Spending the Kids’ Inheritance,” so they basically mean they were having fun using their money instead of saving it to leave to their kids. (“Inheritance” means 遺産)



  15. Anne on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 05:12 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your quick reply!
    Yes, that’s what I wanted to say. I found that you( in general) needed to separate sentences in two as you showed me to make it clear. I tend to write something in one sentence because that’s the way I usually express in Japanese.
    It helps a lot.



  16. Fumie on Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 09:20 PM

    Hi Anne,

    >I guess the conmen think men are vulnerble and tend to be in trouble.
    Oh, I see. 男の子ってそんなもんなんですね。いくつになっても母親としては心配が絶えないのかも?



  17. Biwa on Thursday August 8th, 2013 at 09:39 AM

    Hi YU and Anne,

    Thank you for your kind words. 🙂
    We’re going to rent a tent so that we can have some shade to rest. However, I’m sure I’ll get lots of sun and then horrible spots on my face and arms because we don’t have any shade while we watch the games…I hate UV rays! I wish we had a huge tent to cover the whole beach!

    Hi David,

    I like that joke! That’s what I’m going to do when I get older. It might be more accurate to say that we won’t have any inheritance anyway!



  18. YU on Thursday August 8th, 2013 at 01:22 PM

    Hi David,

    I think the idea of “SKI” is finally good for both parents and children because parents can enjoy a full life and children will learn to become independent.

    Hi everyone,

    I heard that the total amount of damage of “It’s me sagi” has been even increasing despite repeated warnings. I think it’s because conmen are getting smarter and smarter and they are always working hard to invent a new “trick” as Anne mentioned.

    As David says, many Japanese elderly people seem to have a huge amount of savings and some of them are easily tricked, but I think precisely because those people are often richer and have(or used to have) higher social status than others, they tend to fall victim to this type of fraud. I mean, they pay a lot of money to some conmen not just because they simply want to help their sons, but also to defend their own social status from family scandals.
    If you aren’t rich or don’t have high social status, I don’t think you will be tricked as easily as them.



  19. Rei on Thursday August 8th, 2013 at 09:03 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I am a novice user, so this is my first.

    My mother’s friend received a call from a con man recently. She said, ” You are still young, aren’t you? How about living an honest life?”
    Bravo!! We can say that, can’t we? I hear elder people are difficult to doubt someone. I wish I could commit fraud to the con men.



  20. amo on Thursday August 8th, 2013 at 09:31 PM

    Hi David,

    About the topic, I don’t have any experiences, or anyone around me hasn’t been conned. Like you said, I thought this kind of scam no longer happened in Japan, but as Anne mentioned, they keep making new tricks from one to the next. They used to ask to pay through a bank transfer but now they come to house and get the money.

    >I’m also interested to know what steps Japanese people are taking to protect their elderly relatives from this kind of scam.

    My sisters and I told our parents that we won’t never ask money so if they got this kind of phone call just hang up and call us.

    Hi Rei,

    Nice to have you with us 🙂 look forward to your next comment.

    Hi everyone,

    How is the weather where you are? It’s getting hotter and hotter. I wish I could go somewhere cool 🙁

    Take care,
    amo



  21. YU on Friday August 9th, 2013 at 09:45 AM

    Hi Rei,

    Nice to have you with us!

    > I hear elder people are difficult to doubt someone.

    I’m afraid, but I hear exactly the opposite.
    It is often said that with age people get more suspicious of everyone and stubborn.
    I think in general our brain is apt to become less sharp as we get older, so elderly people are always the easiest victims for them.



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