Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

‘Ore-ore’ sagi (‘It’s me’ scams)

TelephoneA: Hello?

B: It’s me!

A: Takeshi? Is that you? What’s wrong with your voice?

B: I’ve got a cold. Listen, I need a really big favour…

“Ore Ore” sagi (“It’s me!” scams) are a well known confidence trick in Japan.

A fraudster calls a house. If the voice on the end of the phone sounds like it belongs to someone elderly or otherwise exploitable, he says “Ore! Ore!” (“It’s me!”). If he’s lucky, the victim will mistake him for a son/nephew/grandson, and say “Is that Hideo” (or similar), and his trap is set.

In most cases, the voice will be different from the one they’re expecting. If the victim seems uncertain, “Hideo” can invent a cold or flu to explain the change in his voice.

Next, the scamster adds the bait. “Hideo” has gotten himself into terrible trouble (like accidentally shunting someone’s Porsche, or being threatened by the yakuza), and owes a lot of money. The aim of this drama is to panick the bewildered victim into transferring money immediately to an account owned by him, after which, they never hear from him again, and the truth emerges.
At their peak, these kind of scams fooled thousands of gullible unfortunates every year, earning billions of yen. Media coverage has increased public caution, but also given increasing numbers of dishonest types the inspiration to try it out. There’s also more innovation – a complex ore ore scam might involve a number of fraudsters acting different roles and sharing the profits.

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12 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Daniel

    Happens alot in Brazil, the inmates call people from inside the prisons. Very easy scam. 😛

  2. mswashu

    Seems like several foreign companies have been trying a version of this as well. They call from what looks like a state-side phone # and keep you on the phone for a few minutes and you end up being charged hundreds per minute. AT&T posted a notice about it on their site. People will do shameful things for a dollar.

  3. KT

    Gah~. If anything like that would happen to me I would die for sure. Shouldn’t the people who fall for it be suuuper embarrased? Pfft, if that happened to one of my friends I’d smack ’em for being so stupid. >:l

  4. I was fortunate enough (read; damned) to spend a couple months in the Tokyo detention center a year ago and one gentleman I met, who had been a member of a “Sagi” team was pleading out and paying money back (his parents savings) and writing 35 I”m sorry” letters in order to get ONLY a 5 year prison sentence. 25 year old guy, a Host in Kabukichou.

    He said he made about 800 million yen, that was just his cut, in about 2 months.

    If you cant do the time dont mess with crime eh….

  5. Robert

    Im a victim of this scam… but its just like my dad told me when I was young… if its to good to be true… it isnt. and heres the kick… I never heard there voices… it was just txt’s, i never gave them money, but in a stupid way i did. When they ofer you money for sex tapes… and you get jerked around… Im still burning! I just wanted to speek for some of us that have been burned… Good luck in not getting burned all

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