‘It’s me’ scams taking the direct-delivery tack


The National Police Agency is warning older people to beware of so-called grandparent scams, which have seen a sharp uptick in both number and value recently.

In the first four months of this year, there were 1,573 incidents involving a total of some ¥5 billion nationwide, a level on pace to surpass last year’s annual total of 3,634 cases and ¥11.1 billion by wide margins, the NPA said.

In such scams, which are also known as “ore-ore sagi,” or “It’s me! It’s me! scam,” the fraudster calls an elderly person and claims to be an offspring or grandchild in dire need of cash.

While the scams usually involve bank cash transfers, there has been a steep increase in cases in which swindlers pretending to be colleagues or friends of troubled children or grandchildren meet the targets to collect the money in person.

For the January-April period, the Osaka police confirmed 80 cases involving a total of ¥285 million in the prefecture, three more cases and five times the amount of money from a year earlier.

According to a senior prefectural police official, such scams have been surging because swindlers are getting their hands on lists of Kansai graduates of high schools and universities.

Amid the overall rise in these scams, there has also been a sharp jump in the number of cases in which the fraudsters directly collect the money from victims.

In January-April, such incidents accounted for 1,159 cases, or about three-quarters of the 1,573 cases reported to police nationwide, with victims cheated out of ¥3.99 billion in total — more than double the year-before level.

In April, for example, a woman in her 70s in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, received a phone call from someone identifying himself as her son and begging for ¥20 million, stressing that he had to pass it to a senior colleague who was in trouble. At a designated place, she handed over ¥10 million to a man who said he was there on behalf of her son.

She had no doubts about the call, because her “son” had phoned the previous day to complain that a cold had changed his voice.