Recently, my partner renewed her drivers license and was waiting in line to pay her fee. The clerk asked the elderly man waiting in front of her if he wanted to join the Japan Traffic Safety Association for an additional fee. She rattled off a memorized spiel, and after the intimidated old man assented weakly she handed him his change.

This transaction took place at a police station, whose walls were adorned with posters publicizing the National Police Agency's latest assault on furikome sagi swindling schemes. The posters warn citizens about the dangers of criminal groups who target the elderly, calling them on the phone and fooling them into giving them money via direct deposit (furikome). Though the clerk's appeal was not dishonest, the dynamic in play during her brief and rapid presentation wasn't much different from the one swindlers count on to bilk their victims.

It's a dynamic that appears to be paying off. The NPA reports that last year the amount of money conned out of people through such swindles was ¥12.8 billion, 26.7 percent more than the amount in 2010. Moreover, the number of successful and unsuccessful "attempts" at swindles reported to police in 2011 was 6,255, or 5.8 percent less than the number in 2010, thus indicating that swindlers are becoming more efficient.