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    Nice work if you can get it

    Cheese and crackers! The “It’s me” scam–which has now taken so many forms that it’s referred to more elegantly as 振り込め詐欺 (furikome-sagi: “the ‘Pay up!’ scam”*)–caused losses of 28,400,000,000 yen in 2004. (That’s about US $258,000,000.) The figure is nearly four times what it had been in 2003–the phenomenon really took off last year. The Mainichi ran an article a few days ago about one of the rings from which some members have been caught:

    The ring was divided into 10 groups, each of which comprised of some 10 “shops.” Each shop was headed by a “manager” and staffed by approximately 10 “employees.”

    Each shop was required to net at least 10 million yen a month from such frauds. Employees who showed outstanding performances were invited to participate in tours of Okinawa and dine at hotels. While those who failed to fulfill their quota were beat by their bosses.

    Managers received about 500,000 yen in fixed monthly salary and employees got 250,000 to 300,000 yen, plus additional pay in proportion to the money they earned. One manager received 5 million yen as a monthly wage, police said.

    You know, kind of like Fuller Brush, only with kneecappings and not a single satisfied customer. Of course, the efflorescence of this particular swindle only seems sudden; in fact, it’s been gradually becoming more common over the last few years, and there’s nothing surprising in the way more miscreants have been drawn to it.
    * Before Amritas gets over his cold and points it out: 振り込め isn’t the imperative of the verb usually translated “pay.” It’s more like “make the bank transfer” (or, if we’re being literal, “sprinkle it in” or “wave it in”). I was taking license, poetic or otherwise.

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