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    Are you sure / You wanna hear more?

    Posted by Sean at 11:21, July 16th, 2009

    Great. The ore-ore scam is back, according to the Yomiuri:

    The monthly average of all remittance-related fraud this year has been 92 cases. Should such frauds continue at the same rate this month, July’s figure would be about 150–about 60 percent higher than the monthly average so far this year.

    Notable is the increase in the number of “It’s me calling” scams, in which criminals deceive elderly people by pretending to be a relative and asking them to remit money, with explanations such as “I’ve lost money on the stock exchange.”

    Such methods are believed to be similar to those mainly used around 2003, techniques that criminals have used less frequently in recent years.

    Members of criminal groups who were arrested around that time and had been serving prison terms have now been released. The MPD is strengthening its measures to tackle this kind of crime as it believes the same groups could be back in operation.

    According to the MPD, 552 remittance frauds were committed in the first six months of this year–1,909 fewer cases than in the first half of 2008.

    Criminals cheated victims out of about 869 million yen in the first half of 2009–again a sharp decline of about 2.91 billion yen from the same period last year, the MPD said.

    That makes it hard to tell whether this is a new trend emerging, though the part about those convicted years ago being out of prison now isn’t exactly comforting.


    This is a stick-up

    Posted by Sean at 13:01, February 10th, 2009

    The “Fork it over!” scam (nee the “It’s me!” scam) is apparently still going, though it’s been around for a half-decade at this point and one would have hoped that almost everyone would be on the alert. The Nikkei reports, though, that the amount defrauded in January was the lowest recorded:

    On 10 February, the National Police Agency announced that confirmed cases of the “Make the deposit!” fraud numbered 810 in January, with total takings of ¥983 million, both the lowest figures since July 2004, when monthly statistics were first compiled.

    The breakdown of the cases was as follows: 342 incidents and ¥596 million for the “It’s me” scam, 223 incidents and ¥228 million for the fraudulent billing scam, 200 incidents and ¥125 million for the financing/insurance scam, 45 incidents and ¥2.8 million for the [tax] refund scam. There were 64 suspects related to 287 cases apprehended, for an arrest rate of 35.4%.

    It’s become more common for perpetrators to skip asking for a bank transfer and just show up at the houses of victims, disguised as motorbike couriers, asking for the cash.

    I know what you’re thinking: Japan is so hip, modern, and cool! Isn’t there any way we Yanks could get in on that whole racy, danger-boy thing of letting people who want money they don’t deserve find clever ways to get it from those who earned it?

    The answer is “You’d better believe it!” NRO had a useful breakdown of some of the proposed beneficiaries of this latest spending spree (as passed by the House), which is enough to make you wish the booty were all going to thugs disguised as bike couriers instead. The saddest part of the NRO piece is in the middle, where the much-tried authors can no longer even pretend to categorize the outlays as honest attempts at stimulus and just group some under “Pure Pork”:

    The problem with trying to spend $1 trillion quickly is that you end up wasting a lot of it. Take, for instance, the proposed $4.5 billion addition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget. Not only does this effectively double the Corps’ budget overnight, but it adds to the Corps’ $3.2 billion unobligated balance—money that has been appropriated, but that the Corps has not yet figured out how to spend. Keep in mind, this is an agency that is often criticized for wasting taxpayers’ money. “They cannot spend that money wisely,” says Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “I don’t even think they can spend that much money unwisely.”

    Speaking of spending money unwisely, the stimulus bill adds another $850 million for Amtrak, the railroad that can’t turn a profit. [Sean sobs quietly.] There’s also $1.7 billion for “critical deferred maintenance needs” in the National Park System, and $55 million for the preservation of historic landmarks. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard needs $87 million for a polar icebreaking ship–maybe global warming isn’t working fast enough.

    It should come as no surprise that rural communities–those parts of the nation that were hardest hit by rampant real-estate speculation and the collapse of the investment–banking industry–are in dire need of an additional $7.6 billion for “advancement programs.” Congress passed a $300 billion farm bill last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough. This bill provides additional subsidies for farmers, including $150 million for producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish.

    It is not clear to me how any of this represents a break with the profligacy of the Bush administration, or how it represents the learning and internalization of the lessons Japan taught us during its Lost Decade.

    Of course, the most infuriating part was the line “The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life,” which, as a response to doubts that Washington should be playing Mr. Fix-it, begs the question something fierce. You’d think that government-as-resource-suck was a fact of nature–you know…birdies fly, crickets chirp, cheetahs tear apart gazelles with their sharp teeth and pointy claws, and money flows to D.C.

    Added after a cup of tea: Nick Gillespie at Reason.com:

    It is far from clear what the hell Schumer could possibly mean when he says we have to stop continuing the very policies that got us in such a pickle. Like what? Too much government spending? Too much government subsidy of the housing market? Too much consumer spending? Isn’t this thing specificially designed to get all of that moving again? How about letting housing values actually sink down to where they might actually deserve to be? How about letting Fed rates drift up from 0 percent for a quarter or three? How about simply cutting taxes across the board, accompanied by spending cuts?

    That said, Republicans, especially in the Senate, don’t have any credibility on fiscal issues. They did nothing but break the bank when they actually ran the government and they did next to nothing when George W. Bush and Twitchy Paulson rolled out the bailout barrel last fall.

    Tragically, the scene from North Avenue Irregulars in which one of the women, having hidden a tape recorder in her bra to entrap the crooks, accidentally starts playing “The Beer Barrel Polka” doesn’t seem to be on YouTube. It does have Cloris Leachman taking revenge for her broken nails, though.


    Nice work if you can get it

    Posted by Sean at 22:07, January 27th, 2005

    Cheese and crackers! The “It’s me” scam–which has now taken so many forms that it’s referred to more elegantly as 振り込め詐欺 (furikome-sagi: “the ‘Pay up!’ scam”*)–caused losses of 28,400,000,000 yen in 2004. (That’s about US $258,000,000.) The figure is nearly four times what it had been in 2003–the phenomenon really took off last year. The Mainichi ran an article a few days ago about one of the rings from which some members have been caught:

    The ring was divided into 10 groups, each of which comprised of some 10 “shops.” Each shop was headed by a “manager” and staffed by approximately 10 “employees.”

    Each shop was required to net at least 10 million yen a month from such frauds. Employees who showed outstanding performances were invited to participate in tours of Okinawa and dine at hotels. While those who failed to fulfill their quota were beat by their bosses.

    Managers received about 500,000 yen in fixed monthly salary and employees got 250,000 to 300,000 yen, plus additional pay in proportion to the money they earned. One manager received 5 million yen as a monthly wage, police said.

    You know, kind of like Fuller Brush, only with kneecappings and not a single satisfied customer. Of course, the efflorescence of this particular swindle only seems sudden; in fact, it’s been gradually becoming more common over the last few years, and there’s nothing surprising in the way more miscreants have been drawn to it.
    * Before Amritas gets over his cold and points it out: 振り込め isn’t the imperative of the verb usually translated “pay.” It’s more like “make the bank transfer” (or, if we’re being literal, “sprinkle it in” or “wave it in”). I was taking license, poetic or otherwise.


    詐欺

    Posted by Sean at 20:02, December 28th, 2004

    A long-running story in Japan this year has been the so-called “It’s me” scam. It’s become such a fixture of the news, in fact, that its Wikipedia entry is already posted; the latest victim surfaced last week.



    It works like this:


    A large number of people, especially the elderly, have fallen victim to the so-called “It’s me, send money” scam in which swindlers posing as the victims’ children or grandchildren call and ask them to send money.



    Such swindlers typically call victims posing as their children saying, “It’s me.” They then lie that they had been abducted or caused a traffic accident, and ask the victims to remit money into designated accounts as ransom or compensation.



    The victims believe that they are actually talking to their children or grandchildren and remit the money. After contacting their children or grandchildren, they realize they had been tricked. By the time they contact the financial institutions or police, the money has been withdrawn from the account.





    The more sophisticated criminals will play recordings of sirens in the background to simulate an accident scene. If they know the cell number of the person they’re impersonating, they’ll repeat dial the number until the phone goes dead; that way they can explain to the victim that they’ll be out of contact until the money is remitted. In one of the more recent cases, a man was swindled out of the equivalent of over US $400,000. Yes, I checked the number of zeros.



    To American (and many other foreign) observers, this whole thing is incomprehensible. And by this point in time, the scam has been so incessantly publicized that it’s hard to believe people are still being taken in by it. While it’s true that criminals have changed their MO somewhat–often impersonating lawyers, police officers, or bank employees “on behalf” of close relatives–it boggles the mind that anyone is still remitting money to a strange bank account at the request of someone whose identity has not been confirmed.



    The initial mistakes were, however, understandable. I suspect that many of the victims were hard-of-hearing and didn’t talk to their children and grandchildren all that frequently, and strangeness of voice and idiolect could have been put down to agitation over the alleged emergency.



    Additionally, it just isn’t hard to believe in today’s Japan that a relative has taken out a loan and is about to get into big trouble for being unable to pay it back, which is the story frequently used. Many of us Americans can still imagine our parents’ or grandparents’ demanding to know, “Just how did you get yourself into this jam in the first place? And why on earth didn’t you tell me sooner?” Japan still teaches youngsters to depend on their elders a lot more than most Western countries do, though; in turn, it encourages those elders to see themselves as stewards of the family honor. Both of these are fine things that it would be nice to see America relearn. But Japan can take them to an extreme that can all but exclude personal responsibility, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were part of the reason that people have been squelching their native caution–in the most recent case, even after a helpful taxi driver got the police to warn the victim before she made the deposit–and forking over the money.