A Yakuza’s basic Ore Ore Sagi Fraud:
The telephone rings. Grandma answers.
“Hey, it’s me!”
“Kenji, is that you?”
“Yes! Grandma, I’m in a real bind. I just got into a terrible car accident!”
“Oh, no! Are you hurt? Is that why your voice sounds strange?”
“Yeah, that’s why. Listen, I hit a really expensive car and don’t have enough to pay for the damages. Could you lend me some? If you don’t, I might go to jail!”
“Of course, dear! I’ll send the money right away!”
Ore ore sagi is a scam Yakuza and other swindlers use to extort money from victims by claiming to be a relative in dire straights.
A little Japanese lesson:
In English it’s translated to “It’s me! It’s me! Fraud.” In Japanese it’s called 俺！俺！詐欺 (おれ！おれ！さぎ/ ore ore sagi.）俺/ore means “I” in very casual speech. 詐欺/sagi means “fraud; swindle.” Another word is 振り込め詐欺 (ふりこめさぎ/furikome sagi.) “Bank transfer fraud.” 振り込む (ふりこむ/furikomu) means to make a payment via bank transfer, which is mixed with “fraud” to make the new word, furikomesagi.
You’d think people would be suspicious of someone calling and asking for large amounts of money. You’d be wrong. Despite the National Police Agency, banks, and governments launching massive add campaigns warning the public about ore ore sagi, the scam is and has been gaining steam. (In a bizarre coincidence, as I write this a public service announcement for ore ore sagi was blasted over the city’s PA system.) From 2010 to 2011 there was a thirty-four percent increase in the amount of yen swindled from unsuspecting Japanese–eighty of them percent seniors. Most frauds are carried out by loan shark companies acting on behest of Yakuza.
The NPA’s efforts against ore ore sagi are finally paying off though. Old folks are starting to wizen up to anyone calling up asking for boatloads of money. Bank employees are also looking out for overprotective grandparents and halting suspicious transfers before they can go through. Just last month the NPA developed a new cybercrime task force to home in on the ever-rising fraud cases. Among other things, it’s the task force’s job to trace bank transfers back to the source to catch the bad guys stealing money from nice old folks. Buying pre paid phones (most often used in the scam) now even requires proof of residence in an effort to crack down on ore ore sagi.
Unfortunately, just as the police are stepping up their game, so are the bad guys. The NPA’s anti-fraud campaign has worked well enough to force criminals who use ore ore sagi to change tactics. Now, criminals posing as police officers call victims and say a relative has caused a terrible car accident. The phone then gets handed over to their sobbing, slurry-speeched “relative,” who claims whoever they hit can’t wait for the insurance money and needs it immediately.
And since bank transfers have limits and can be easily traced by police, ore ore sagi swindlers have started forgoing bank transfers in favor of hand-to-hand money exchanges. Usually, this is done by an intermediary posing as a friend of the relative in need. (Because of course they can’t leave the scene of the accident.)
How could this actually work? Because people are gullible. And because Japanese take debt very seriously. It is quite shameful in Japanese culture to have debt you can’t pay, and ore ore sagi takes advantage of this. The debt for doing something wrong like causing an accident is immense.
Ore ore sagi has become so common it’s even spawned a popular book-turned-movie, “Ore Ore.” The book follows the tale of a “ore ore sagi-ist,” (is that a word?) who himself gets swindled when another impostor poses as him. Eventually, the whole city starts filling with impostors in a postmodern story questioning personal identity.
Ore ore sagi doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, only transforming into something even more elaborate and deceitful. Hopefully the police’s renewed efforts, along with its efforts against Yakuza, will have a positive effect in dealing with impostors.