TOKYO (Reuters) - Fraudsters have tricked large sums of money out of trusting Japanese this year by phoning and pretending to be relatives in trouble, police said on Thursday.
In what domestic media are calling the "Hi, it's me" swindle, victims receive calls from fraudsters who identify themselves only as "me" and say they are in desperate need of money to cover anything from an uninsured traffic accident to an unexpected pregnancy.
Victims assume the person on the telephone must be a close relative and often agree to transfer the money to a bank account specified by the swindler straight away.
There have been 3,807 reported cases so far this year, with victims paying out a total of almost 2.3 billion yen ($21.1 million), according to police statistics.
Many of the victims were women over 40, according to domestic newspapers.
Police said they were recommending that people check the identity of people asking for money on the telephone.
In a more alarming development, some telephone swindlers now extort money by pretending they have kidnapped a victim's child, with 76 such cases in October alone.