- Listening to:Tower by 一青窈
So I was taking a walk near the station this evening, when a guy in a small sedan starts talking to me. I couldn't hear what he was saying since I had my headphones on, but I assumed he wanted to ask me for directions. Being the nice guy that I am, I took off my headphones to hear the man out. The man wasn't asking for directions after all, he was offering to give me a watch for free. His story went something along the lines of... He and his partner, the driver of the car, were promoters of some kind and they had just finished an event unveiling this new watch. Apparently due to some mix up they ended up with an extra watch, and if they took it back to their company they would get in trouble. So rather than throwing it away to avoid trouble, they figured they'd give it to some lucky passerby. While he was telling me this story, the guy took the watch out its gift bag and box to show me. He went on to say that the watch was worth around $5800, and he showed me a handmade booklet with a bunch of watches with pictures and their prices. I suppose this booklet was supposed to look like some sort of insider catalogue. I must have been making a surprised/confused face since the guy kept telling me how surprising this must be for me and how it was my lucky day. The guy kept repeating the short version of the story, adding things like how he didn't want to exchange information, and that I could do whatever I want with the watch, but if I wanted to sell it to wait a few days since the watch had not been officially launched yet.
This guy was speaking fast and I can't say that I understood everything this guy was telling me, but I was fairly certain that this story didn't add up and that these guys were trying to con me. But being the kind of guy I am, I decided to play along and see how far I could take this little con. I should add that we were in a fairly well trafficked area, and there was a guardrail between me and the car, so I was fairly confident I wouldn't be jumped. So I played the whole, "who am I too turn down this great offer" act, and that's when the guy showed his cards. Instead of handing me the watch and wishing me a good evening, he starts telling me that he's going to go out drinking with his boss (or someone important) later tonight. So as a token of appreciation for giving me such a great watch, would I give him some money for drinks tonight. I told him I wasn't carrying the kind of money to finance anyone's drinking. He relented and said surely I had some money, and asked for the amount of money in my wallet. I told him I really didn't have any money in my wallet, and that I had about 500 yen and obviously no bills. The guy seemed genuinely surprised and asked me if I could go get some money from an ATM. Sensing that there was no place to take this conversation any further, I shrugged my shoulders and I said I COULD but I wasn't willing to go through the trouble for a watch, and that I'm sure they could find someone else to "give" the watch. The guy didn't even respond he just looked away and rolled up the window, and I walked away.
When I got home I looked up watch and fraud (腕時計 and 詐欺 for those of you compiling vocabulary lists) on Google. Sure enough, I got plenty of hits of people who had similar experiences to mine, except most of the posts were by people who handed over money. The basic gist was the same, two guys in a car want to give you an expensive watch, or pair of watches, because if they keep it they somehow get into trouble, afterward they start asking for some money for an unrelated expense. Victims ended up paying between ¥4500 and ¥50,000 for a cheap gaudy quartz watch, obviously not worth the claimed amount. What was surprising was that some people claimed they were pretty certain the watch wasn't worth anything but they paid the money anyway since saying no was a hassle, and figured it was worth it for the story. Obviously the people making that claim were paying out in the lower end of the scale. The other interesting thing was that many of the threads I found were dated in the early 2000's. Looking further in these threads people there were people explaining how this is a very old con and in the 50's involved suits. I saw someone claim that an Italian attempted this con on them in France. Apparently, the "trick" behind this fraud is that since you're actually conducting two separate transactions, and you're not actually paying for the watch it's harder to make a claim of fraud. I have no idea how true that claim is, but I'd like to think that readers of this blog are smart enough to not fall for this con to have to find out. So that's my short story about a specific kind fraud in Japan.