How do scam artists keep getting caught in Japan by “not looking good in a suit?”

“Taxi driver” is one of those jobs that can involve a broad range of activities. Obviously driving the taxi is the main one, but they might also find themselves filling the role of travel guide if an out-of-town tourist has some questions about the community, or even just lending a friendly or sympathetic ear when a passenger is feeling chatty.

And then there’s the driver of a cab in Hyogo Prefecture, who suddenly became a crime fighter this week. On Tuesday morning, the driver picked up a passenger in the town of Ako, a 27-year-old woman with brown hair wearing a suit. She asked him to take her to a private residence elsewhere in the city, and he did. After he dropped her off, though, instead of going cruising for his next fare, the taxi driver called the police and told them “I gave a ride to a young woman with brown hair, but she didn’t look right in the suit. I think she might be involved in some kind of scam.”

▼ Yes, he literally called the fashion police on her.

The jump from “wearing a suit” to “pulling a scam” might seem strange, but the most common frauds in Japan involve criminals posing as respectable businesspeople to cheat gullible or confused senior citizens out of their money, and so the police decided to look into the matter. Before an officer could arrive on scene the young woman had already left in a different cab, but investigators were able to contact the second driver and find out where he’d taken her. From there, it was only a short time until they located the woman, having changed into a different outfit but with the suit she’d been wearing during the cab ride still in her possession. Also in her possession: the ATM card of an 88-year-old woman who lives in the home the first cab driver had taken her to.

Upon questioning, the younger woman admitted that she’d called the older woman on the phone earlier that morning, telling her a made-up story about a medical care insurance refund that she was eligible for. Posing as an intermediary agent handling the transaction, she convinced the elderly woman to give her her ATM card and tell her the PIN, ostensibly with the lie that she needed them to transfer the refund into the victim’s bank account.

Luckily, the police were able to take the woman into custody before she could withdraw funds with the ill-gotten card and PIN. She’s now been arrested for attempted fraud and has admitted to the charges, though investigators believe she is likely a runner for a larger operation.

Getting back to the fashion-critiquing cabbie who called the police, this isn’t the first, or even the second, time a crime in Japan has been prevented because someone didn’t look good in a suit. Strange as it may seem, there’s actually some plausible logic behind the deductions. If a suit doesn’t look right on someone, that generally means they don’t look comfortable in it. Maybe it’s ill-fitting, or maybe they’re unusually fidgety and tugging at the shoulder or sleeves. But in general, white-collar wear-a-suit jobs in Japan require you to wear one every day, so most people actually working in such professions get used to them pretty quickly.

But what about younger workers who haven’t been in their position very long? Don’t they still feel, and look, kind of awkward wearing a suit? Maybe, but that’s where the importance Japanese work culture places on experience, and senpai/kohai (senior/junior) relationships come into play. If an employee is still inexperienced enough that they’re not used to wearing a suit (i.e. they don’t look comfortable/”right” in one), it’s unlikely that they’re getting sent out to visit clients in their homes, at least not by themselves. If they are making house calls, they’re probably tagging along with a more experienced coworker for a watch-and-learn experience, not handling customer interactions solo.

So odds are when these criminals are getting caught for not looking good in a suit, it’s not because the people reporting them don’t like the fabric or number of buttons, but because they’re dressed like businesspeople without seeming used to an intrinsic part of Japanese business, tipping careful observers off that they might be posing as someone they’re not, and also up to no good.

Source: Kobe Shimbun Next via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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