Money spent on souvenir tokens and Canadian currency.

There’s a lot of talk about how seniors in Japan are a frequent target for scammers, but we shouldn’t overlook the dangers that prepubescent fraud also poses. Although admittedly much rarer, it can happen much like it did to one elementary student in Nagoya over the course of about a year.

It all started back when a boy was in fifth grade and was being teased by his classmates who accused him of being poor. While defending himself he let it slip that he had about one million yen in cash saved up at his home. It was money he saved up throughout his life, made up of gifts from relatives.

Shortly after, classmates began approaching him with things to sell. Over the course of the year, there were eight transactions for items that the boy was told would increase in value over time by three classmates. One item was a commemorative medal sold at the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium for about 500 yen (US$3.33).

However, the boy was told that it was a special “custom-made solid gold” replica medal and that the current market value of gold was 9,000 yen per gram and bound to increase over time. The coin was of course no such thing, but the pre-teen’s surprisingly accurate knowledge of the gold market was apparently enough to convince the boy to buy it for 360,000 yen ($2,400).

Another time, the boy was approached to purchase some “rare plastic money” for 250,000 yen ($1,700). The exchange took place in the school restroom and the boy received a Canadian 10-dollar bill. It was probably purely a coincidence, but the boy was a sold a 2017 commemorative 10-dollar bill honoring Canada’s 150th anniversary that sells for about CAN$20 now in mint condition. It’s still a far cry from what he paid though.

▼ News report showing the medal and bill

By January of this year, the boy had spent about 930,000 yen ($6,200) of his savings. Realizing that he’d probably been had, he talked to his father about it. The father then notified the police who launched an investigation.

So far, the parents of two of the three boys who sold the items have apologized and repaid 250,000 yen. Meanwhile, readers of the news expressed shock that this kind of crime could be committed at such a young age and wondered what the cause was.

“These kids outdid adult scammers. They need a tough punishment.”
“I think if you’re doing this as an elementary student, your future is already written.”
“Even though it’s from gifts, I don’t think it’s good to let elementary students have close to a million yen freely.”
“It’s shocking that 12-year-olds have such a knack for fraud. If they can use that power for good, they might be really productive members of society.”
“Is this caused by poor education from the parents or the schools?”
“I’m worried about the future.”
“That kid had more saved up than most salarymen.”
“There seems to be bullying involved too. I wonder if this was more extortion than fraud.”

Considering the entire incident was triggered by an act of bullying, there might very well be some element of extortion to this. The police are currently interviewing everyone involved to learn more and the school said they are cooperating as well.

Whatever the situation is, it serves as a reminder to teach your kids about responsible money management at an early age. Frankly, there are quite a few adults in need of some teaching too.

Source: Chukyo TV, Metele,
Featured image: Pakutaso
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