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SCARS|RSN™ SCAM NEWS: Battleground Japan – NHK Docudrama Reveals Telephone Scam Tactics

Japanese Now Directly Involved In Scamming

Thai police last month raided a residence in Pattaya where an alleged telephone swindling operation was taking place. They discovered 15 Japanese nationals suspected of calling retired people in Japan and fooling them into purchasing electronic money. Japanese police say they will arrest the suspects after they are deported.

The sketchy quality of the reports deepened the general confusion about these kinds of telephone scams, which have been in the news for years and continue to be an ongoing problem. It wasn’t just a lack of information on why the men were making calls from Thailand, but the whole nature of these kinds of swindles, which prey on older people who believe stories that, on the surface, sound ridiculous.

Phone home: Suspected Japanese scammers arrested in Thailand sit at an Immigration Bureau holding center in Bangkok.

Phone home: Suspected Japanese scammers arrested in Thailand sit at an Immigration Bureau holding center in Bangkok.

Even when media outlets go into detail on a case, readers and viewers will likely scratch their heads. The basic idea is to get a targeted person on the phone and pretend to be a close relative in serious trouble — traffic accident, work-related disaster — whose resolution requires an immediate infusion of cash. Don’t these victims recognize the voice of their own flesh and blood? How could they be so gullible?

Obviously, there was a crucial element in these kinds of reports that can’t be conveyed through conventional journalism. It required something more and, until NHK aired a docudrama on March 23 called “Sagi no Ko” (“Young Swindlers”), that extra something was missing.

One of the characters in “Sagi no Ko” is a junior high school boy who becomes a “receiver” for a cell of swindlers. It is the lowest position in the cell hierarchy. His job is to collect the cash in person after the victim agrees to resolve the fabricated problem. This task is the only face-to-face encounter in the transaction, so if the receiver is caught it is easier for him if he is a minor, since he can’t be prosecuted as an adult. Also, teenagers are more susceptible to threats from senior members of the cell.

At first, the nonlinear narrative made for perplexing viewing. It starts at the end of the story, when the receiver, Kazuto, is caught by the police while picking up an envelope of money from an elderly woman. From there, the drama ricochets back-and-forth through time, interrupted occasionally by interviews with actual former cell members who elaborate on certain