Furikome sagi (bank transfer scam)

Yolanda: Hello, Kancho-san.

Manager of L'ESPACE Citizen Hall (Kancho): Hello, Yolanda-san. Where have you been?

Yolanda: I just came back from the bank. By the way, I used to see policemen stationed at the bank quite often until recently. What were they for?

Manager: I believe they were watching out for "furikome sagi." There have been so many cases of it these days.

Yolanda: What is "furikome sagi"?

Manager: It is a bank transfer scam. Swindlers call a victim and skillfully steal his money by making him send money to their fake bank account. When the victim answers the phone, the scammers would not clearly say who is calling but instead speak as if they were someone the victim may know. They would start a conversation saying "hey, it's me," "hi mom," or "do you remember me?" Once the victim comes to believe that the caller is his son, grandson, friend, or whoever the scammer is pretending to be, the caller would start telling a made-up story and eventually make the victim believe that he has to pay money to help his troubled relative or friend.

Yolanda: What kind of stories would the scammers use to trick people?

Manager: There are so many different scenarios. Here are some common cases:

*Pretending to be a family member who is in trouble with money (needs to pay loans, required to pay compensations or fines to settle a crime or accident, etc.):
"Dad (mom, grandma, etc.), I made a mistake and need your help. My side business got some financial problems and I really needed to fix them. So I ended up taking some money from the company I work for during the day. Now I need to pay the money back before the company finds this out. I don't want to lose my job or get arrested. Can you help me?"

*Pretending to be a policeman, lawyer, or a train company official, etc. and saying that the someone whom the victim knows is in trouble and needs money to get out of it:
"This is XXX Police. Your husband (son, grandson) has been caught for groping on the train. The victim has agreed that he can be released if a certain amount of money is paid. If you wish to help him for the settlement, you need to send the amount of XXX yen immediately to this account."

Yolanda: They sound like well-scripted stories, but I still don't understand why people can be tricked so easily by such a suspicious phone call. It shouldn't be so difficult to tell whether the voice is of your son or grandson.

Manager: Right. Many victims, however, say that they were well aware of the patterns of the scam and still ended up being tricked. They say it is very upsetting and makes you lose your judgment when you hear someone crying or being hard-pressed on the other side of the phone. Scamming techniques are also becoming more complicated and crafty these days.

Yolanda: Can you give me an example?

Manager: Some scammers may tell you that they have caught a cold to make an excuse for their unfamiliar voice. Some would make a call upfront to tell the victim that they have changed the cell phone number and later call back from the said "new" number. Scammers act as a group and play different characters to make their story more realistic. They may even use some sound effects, such as emergency car sirens and other street noises.

Yolanda: So this is how it goes...the scammer calls you pretending to be your friend and gives you a new phone number. You save it in your phone book under that friend's name. Next time the scammer calls you back, the phone shows you that the caller is your friend. Of course you would hardly doubt it.

Manager: That's right. They might even say that their voice sounds different because of the new phone.

Yolanda: I see. Now I understand why I see policemen at the bank these days.

Manager: Many scammers tell the victim to send the money to their account from the ATM. Now that ATMs at banks are guarded more strictly than before, some scammers have shifted to use ATMs at convenience stores. Victims are often instructed on how to send the money directly by the scammer on the phone while they operate the ATM. Therefore, it is now recommended to avoid using the cell phone in front of or near the ATMs.

Yolanda: What do I have to know so that I can protect myself from becoming a furikome sagi victim?

Manager: You should doubt any cases in which someone asks you to make an immediate payment of the significant amount of money to them. Write down important information, such as the number of the scammer's bank account, and give the information to the concerned banks as well as the police. Note that, in some cases, victims have been asked to send money via takkyubin (delivery service) or postal service. Scammers may also try to get the money by acting as a policeman or a lawyer and directly visiting you at home.

Yolanda: If I end up becoming the victim of furikome sagi, what should I do then?

Manager: If you realize that you have been involved in the scam, you should contact the police and the bank of the scammer's account as soon as possible and ask them to cease any transactions related to that account.

Yolanda: I see. I will be careful.

[Related Link]
Furikome sagi information from Metropolitan Police Department (only available in Japanese)
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