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‘It’s me’ scam rings up ¥408 million for three teens

AFP-JIJI

Three teenagers believed to be behind scams that fleeced people out of about ¥408 million ($4 million) are being quizzed by the police, reports said Thursday.

The trio, all 17, are thought to have been responsible for a rash of “Ore, ore” (“It’s me”) telephone frauds across the country targeting mostly elderly people, reports citing police sources said.

The “It’s me” fraud involves telephoning victims and pretending to be a family member — a son, for example — who is in some kind of trouble, perhaps involving debt or lawyers.

Alternatively, the fraudster pretends to be calling on behalf of a family member.

The victim is asked to transfer a large sum of money to help solve the problem and prevent the “son” from going to jail or falling victim to mobsters.

Despite repeated police campaigns, an astonishing number of people fall for the trick every year in Japan and elsewhere.

Commentators suggest that the often-fragmented lives of extended families, in which close relatives may not see each other for years, heightens the risks.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department made the latest arrests after a 64-year-old man and his 63-year-old wife were conned into handing over ¥1 million ($10,000) to help their “son” settle a dispute over getting a woman pregnant, NHK said.

Officers swooped after another member called back seeking a further ¥1 million, allegedly to cover legal costs.

Police found 550 bank cards that the boys, from Tokyo and surrounding areas, used or planned to use to withdraw money wired from their victims’ accounts, the Tokyo Shimbun said.