Elderly lose $200m from 'Ore ore' scam

Losses from so-called special fraud cases totaled ¥55.9 billion (S$640,055,000) in 2014, up ¥7 billion from a year earlier, marking a third consecutive annual record, according to the National Police Agency.

The figure for telephone and other scams in this category topped ¥50 billion for the first time last year.

There was a sharp increase in the number of cases in which perpetrators told victims to send cash to them by mail or package delivery service.

Such cases accounted for about 40 per cent of the special scams committed in 2014.

By type of fraud scheme, losses through the so-called "Ore ore" (It's me) scam, in which perpetrators swindle elderly victims by pretending to be family members, showed the largest amount at ¥17.5 billion, a rise of 2 per cent from 2013.

Fake invoice scams, a type of billing fraud, had the next biggest total at ¥17.2 billion, a rise of 171 per cent.

After that came securities fraud, in which victims buy nonexistent financial products such as stocks and bonds for which they have received brochures in the mail.

Losses in this area were ¥12.4 billion, a drop of 31 per cent.

Regarding the means by which criminal groups received money, the use of delivery services such as courier services and Letterpack flat-rate cardboard mailers amounted to ¥21.2 billion, increasing by ¥8.1 billion from the previous year.

The average amount of loss in cases involving such deliveries was about ¥7.38 million, exceeding the ¥5.07 million average loss in person-to-person handovers, and the ¥2.26 million average loss through money transfer methods including automated teller machines.

An NPA official said, "Transaction limits at ATMs have become severe, so perpetrators have chosen postal services, which don't require going anywhere to pick up money."

There were 13,371 cases of special fraud, an increase of 1,373 from the previous year.

About 80 per cent of the victims are elderly people aged over 65.

The police agency intends to step up fraud countermeasures, focusing on refund scams, in which victims are fooled by promised refunds of medical and other expenses, and securities fraud, which involves sales of phony financial products.

Both types of fraud have ensnared many elderly victims.

A total of 1,990 special fraud perpetrators were charged in 2014, increasing by 216 from the previous year.