Be careful, be aware, be firm
To my great shame, I fell for a telephone scam the other day.
Normally I am very careful. At home, I use my phone sales technique. At work, I tell people we don't accept cold calls. Very simple, very effective.
Unfortunately this time they caught me at a very busy time and I said yes. Here's how the story developed.
Telephone scams are very common in Japan. Apart from the infamous 'it's me' （oreore） scams or fake internet shopping sites, one of the most common is pushy internet-related businesses.
They will often claim or seem to claim to be large, well-known companies like NTT or OCN. They will try to get you to agree to 'change to a cheaper plan' or 'upgrade your service'.
The call I got this time matched this pattern. However, they also knew we had a public hotspot from NTT, and asked if we wanted to upgrade the router (which we've had since 2012). I asked about cost, they said it would be the same cost as our current plan but the router was much more efficient and would work better. Sounded good, so I broke my own rule and said, 'sure, we'll do that'.
Never agree to anything over the phone. If something sounds interesting, ask them to send you the details in the post. Real companies might do this, scammers probably won't.
Anyway, the following Monday (we got the call on Saturday night) we received a 'contract confirmation email'.
The key information is that it was not NTT, but rather 'Best Effort Inc.', it was going to cost us 3,300 to 4,480 yen a month to rent the router with a minimum contract of 24-60 months, and that merely receiving the package would activate the contract.
I immediately emailed them back with a short email saying: "I assume this is regarding the phone call we received on Saturday evening. The content is so different that I can only assume this is a scam, and will consult with the police regarding any unsolicited packages we receive. Please do not contact us again."
However, after sending the email my wife pointed out that their email had the standard 'this account is not monitored, please contact us by phone with any enquiries' disclaimer. I didn't get much sleep that night as I was thinking about how to handle things.
A quick internet check (Yahoo Answers) confirmed that verbal agreements have no legal force in Japan, and the posters actually recommended keeping whatever they sent you, ignoring any demands for money, then charging a storage fee before returning it. I liked the sound of that, but given how busy we are would prefer to head off trouble before it starts. The last thing we need are criminals showing up at the school demanding money...
The next morning I had to teach, but after class I called the number in the email. A young- and not particularly bright-sounding guy answered, then asked me specifically what I was calling about.
Clearly they run several scams off this number. I explained the email we received, and gave him an out by saying 'I'm sure this is a mistake, but I just wanted to make sure'. He put me on hold to talk to his boss, then came back and said 'we received an email, and it seems this was all our mistake'.
I confirmed that was the end of it, then hung up.
So it seems these guys are just counting on people to try to avoid trouble by paying up. Anyone that kicks up a fuss is too much effort, and will be dropped.
And they were reading the emails.
Be careful out there, but if you make a mistake, know your rights and be firm with the scammers. They don't want a fight, just easy money.
Anyone else had one of these 'fun' experiences?