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  • Police notice: “Oreore Sagi” and other theft crimes with NJ crime placed in the proper context

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on September 17th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  In the same vein as a previous post putting Japanese and NJ crime in context, we have the Hokkaido police issuing a warning (procured from a Sapporo post office ATM area last February) about “Oreore Sagi” (“Hey Mom, it’s me, I need money fast” fraud) and other types of snatch and grab thefts.  As you can read below, we have 1) a shyster phoning some old mom claiming to be her son and asking for emergency funds to be sent to an account, 2) a cash card being used for theft because the owner uses his or her birthday as their PIN number (duh…), 3) people storing their inkans too close to their bankbooks, 4) mysterious people distracting marks so they can snatch their belongings, and 5) call the police immediately if they think they’ve been a victim of crime.

    Item 4) below in particular is germane to  It mentions (in passing) that grabbers might say “you dropped some money” or “your clothes are dirty”, or speak to you in a foreign language.  After distracting you, then they run off with your cash or bag.

    Fine.  It’s in context of other crimes committed by Japanese.  Compare it with some past NPA posters making foreigners out to be the main culprits, including racist caricatures (which are fortunately avoided above), like this nasty one:

    Darkies speaking katakana.  How nice.  More at

    I think this new one is a definite improvement.  Perhaps we’re getting listened to.

    One more thing:  About this “Oreore Sagi” fraud phenomenon.  One thing I’ve always wondered is, are parents so distant from their children nowadays that they can’t recognize their own child’s voice on the phone?  I don’t understand how they get duped.  Explain, somebody?  Arudou Debito in Calgary

    6 Responses to “Police notice: “Oreore Sagi” and other theft crimes with NJ crime placed in the proper context”

    1. MD Says:

      This kind of scam happens all over the world. I heard similar stories happening here in Montreal. Extreme loneliness seems to be a common thing for many elders who are thrown in retirement homes as soon as they become a burden and the kids just wait for them to die to collect the money.

      Maybe its just life in society that’s changing and people have become more individualistic. Or maybe it was always like that.

    2. carl Says:

      That scam was running wild in China via text message as recently as a year or two ago. I’d often get messages that said, “Mom, I’ve been detained by the police. Send money to XXXX bank account.” I couldn’t help but think how gullible one would have to be to actually fall for that. Wouldn’t they at least call their kids first to check before wiring anything? However, the news was full of kind old women who’d been bilked out of their life savings.

      — I don’t doubt the crime is happening. I just don’t understand how it can happen, realistically. Unless parents don’t even know their kids’ voices! That makes no sense to me.

    3. E.P. Lowe Says:

      I think the reason it succeeds, despite the fact that it isn’t the victim’s kid calling is that public shaming is such a devastating act in Japan – once the possibility of shaming occurs then moves are rapidly made to head off that possibility. Now whether it occurs despite the fakery (i.e. ‘just in case’) or that deeply ingrained reflexes take over, I don’t know – though given the prevalence I suspect the latter.

    4. treblekickeresq Says:

      The oreore scam has actually become really sophisticated. It used to be just one guy calling random numbers. Now the yakuza has really become involved so it entails the use of data sets (either bought or stolen) that contains lots of info on the person being dialed.

      It isn’t really someone saying “Yo ma, it’s me!” anymore. The scammer knows everyone’s name in the family and they might even work with a partner (acting as another relative or a daughter-in-law) to pass the phone off to to help dispel any doubts.

      As for the voice, well I think one thing about the missing old people case and the lack of concern about where one’s parents actually are shows a certain percentage of the Japanese population just doesn’t keep in touch that much.

    5. Norik Says:

      When I wnet back to my coutry last year, this scam was on the rise there too. I wish to know who imported it! I remember someone called my granny, and she spilled everything. The person on the other side was crying (acting, of course), and my granny was already asking “Mary, are you OK?Did anything happen to John?”Whoops…She immediately decided that it was my brother’s girlfriend.
      I was watching stunned how the scam I’ve read so much in Japan about was happening right in front of me. But when I finally stepped in, my granny had already found out the caller’s not Mary-my brother is one of those few young men without driving license or any driving skills, he can’t tell axcelerator brom breaks.
      Many others, however, did get scammed and some comitted suicide.
      When I google “grandson scam” , I can’t help but notice that most scams are recorded in North America(US and Canada) and Japan.Also, since similar scams are seen in Korea and scam groups have been reported to use international phone to call their victims from China, Japan somehow gets in the middle of all this.

    6. Mark Says:

      “are parents so distant from their children nowadays that they can’t recognize their own child’s voice on the phone? I don’t understand how >they get duped. Explain, somebody? Arudou Debito in Calgary

      First, we’re talking about elderly victims who do not recognize a voice, although one doesn’t have to be of advanced age to not recognize a voice. Secondly, Anyone of any age can fall victim to a sudden overload of information. (E.g. Hey, there’s a guy outside with a katana! He’s running around slashing people! OMG what should I do? Go take a look? Call the police? Hide? Turns out the “katana” is a whisk broom and the guy is sweeping in front of his shop.)

      The reason the scam works is due to the age of the victim. We lose mental capacity in our 70s, 80’s. Combined with various afflictions that could further reduce the brain’s ability to process information, it is easy to take advantage of elderly people. The scam targets the elderly, not young people. It has little to do with recognizing a voice or not being close to one’s family members. An elderly mom gets a call from her “son”. The son is frantic, rapidly dispensing information, the elderly mom is overwhelmed. Mom rushes to the bank to withdraw money. Later on, when her real son visits or calls, mom asks (or maybe doesn’t ask) about the son’s troubles. Then he finds out what happened. Simple and effect scam. Can be used worldwide as mentioned in the above comments.

      Stories, poster:

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