National / Crime & Legal

Tokyo police use dog walkers to raise awareness among elderly people about fraud cases

Kyodo

Dogs and their owners paraded down streets in Tokyo on Monday to help prevent people from becoming victims of frauds in which swindlers make phone calls pretending to be relatives asking for money.

Some 20 dogs, dressed in costumes bearing messages telling elderly people not to answer the phone, walked with their owners in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward at the request of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Ebara Police Station, which is located in the ward.

Police officials said they asked the dog owners to give elderly people tips for identifying suspicious phone calls when they saw them walking the dogs.

“We also asked dog owners to talk to elderly people if they are trying to use ATMs,” said Yoshinaga Igarashi, head of the police station.

“It’s easier to get a chance to speak with others when you are walking dogs,” said Tetsuya Suzuki, 58, a resident of Shinagawa Ward who took part in the parade with his two dogs. “I will try to talk to elderly people as much as I can.”

The campaign was aimed at preventing the so-called ore-ore (“It’s me! It’s me!”) scam, which refers to the swindling of mostly elderly people by perpetrators who impersonate their children or grandchildren over the phone and ask for urgent money transfers.

In 2018, the number of reported special fraud cases — incidents where crime groups deceive people into paying money through phone calls or other communication without actually meeting them, including the It’s me! It’s me! scam — declined for the first time in eight years to 16,493, but losses still exceeded ¥35 billion, according to the National Police Agency.

People age 65 or above accounted for 78 percent of special fraud victims, up 5.5 percentage points from the previous year, underscoring the need to focus on senior citizens and get them to take preventive measures.

The report showed the cases were heavily concentrated in metropolitan regions, with those in Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures making up nearly half of the cases.

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