Ore Ore Sagi: The Yakuza’s Phone Fraud Jutsu

Yakuza's Ore Ore Sagi

A Yakuza’s basic Ore Ore Sagi Fraud:

The telephone rings. Grandma answers.

“Hello?”

“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.

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13 Comments on “Ore Ore Sagi: The Yakuza’s Phone Fraud Jutsu”

  1. fingknitcoolgal
    November 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    It’s so despicable to preying on old people like that! My mom is in a way safe because all her offsprings are living abroad, therefore, there will be no chance for Yakuza to convince her that I have had a traffic accident in Osaka. Having said that, I am always concerned about those “face-less” crimes around her since her generation of Japanese are more naturally trusting and less techno-savvy. Oh, how much I despise scumbags like Yakuza!!

    • introvertnathan
      November 10, 2013 at 12:41 am #

      Yeah, definitely. But the government is finally cracking down on Yakuza. Now, doing any kind of business with them is a crime. Even some temples are banning them from their premises Funeral homes and crematoriums too, won’t work for them. The Yakuza have been struggling recently.

  2. adinam89
    November 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    This thing is similar in my country. “Ore ore sagi” is called in Romania “Operation: Accident”. A famous Romanian actor fell into this trap.

    • introvertnathan
      November 10, 2013 at 12:36 am #

      Romania too? I guess criminals are the same all over.

  3. hollywoodsam
    November 10, 2013 at 12:32 am #

    Some people must be quite gullible. I’ve also heard city PA announcements in while in Japan about people approaching you at home regarding other frauds. Older people are often targeted, shame.

    • introvertnathan
      November 10, 2013 at 12:48 am #

      Even approaching you at home? That’s ballzy. Least the city is warning the old folks though.

  4. annamibananas
    November 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    This definitely sounds scary and its kind of a black mark on humanity to be restorting to such underhanded trickery to earn money.

    • introvertnathan
      November 12, 2013 at 2:11 am #

      yeah, it’s really dirty. But the public is beaming more aware, so hopefully, eventually, it will start to decline.

      • annamibananas
        November 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

        oh okay that’s good to hear and I really hope you’ll be careful over there

  5. Petras
    November 15, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    This scam is all over the world. It happens quite frequently in Lithuania. I’ve created a Prezi about that, if interested, you can view it here: http://prezi.com/ooxlsugr5fqa/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

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