An epic tale of pornography, revenge, alcohol, and pumpkins.
If you ever have the pleasure of meeting our Japanese-language correspondent Go Hattori, your first impression will probably be what a nice guy he is. Intelligent and worldly, yet humble and soft-spoken, Go’s gentle voice and calm demeanor immediately identify him as a great friend to have.
But if you’re an online scam artist, there’s no worse enemy than Go.
Go has previously used his combination of smarts and tenacity to crush the spirit of a would-be Amazon gift card con man, but today he’s not fighting for himself. No, today he’s going up against on online villains to take vengeance for an ordinary junior high school boy…and also because fighting the good fight gives him a chance to briefly look at Internet porn during his working hours.
Recently, Go was talking with a friend whose son is in the seventh grade. It turns out the boy had a desire to look at naked ladies (like we said, an ordinary junior high school kid), and so he logged on to a Japanese adult video site with the rather innocuous-sounding name of Internet Patrol. However, as is often the case with digital pornography purveyors, the site employs some shady methods to squeeze cash out of visitors, and Go’s friend said his son almost got scammed into paying service fees he’d never agreed to.
And so Go’s quest for vengeance began. Back in the privacy of his own home, he whipped out his smartphone and pointed his browser to the site, which was filled with titillating thumbnails of available videos.
▼ The actual site is far less pixilated, obviously.
Using his professional acumen, Go selected a video of a young woman with an electric massager inserted between her legs, and tapped the play button. But instead of starting any sexy action, Go’s tap merely brought up another button on the video player, a large pink one that said “Next” in Japanese text.
But tapping this didn’t start the video either. Instead, as soon as Go pressed the button, he heard a sound like a camera shutter snapping a picture. Wait…did Go’s phone just capture an image of his adult video-expecting face? As he was grappling with the question, a popup message appeared saying “Thank you for registering with our site.”
The message continued with
Your member ID has been issued
Thank you for using this charged adult site.
Your device data has been safely stored.
You will be charged 150,000 yen [US$1,300] for a 365-day use contract.
But eventually, Go started to see through the scare tactics. For example, the section of the message labeled “stored device information” listed just his browser and phone model, with no other sensitive data. Still, Go could imagine a less technologically savvy visitor to the website falling hook, line, and sinker for these ploys, especially when an ominous countdown timer appeared underneath another popup message demanding payment be made for the year-long contract.
However, there was one ray of light, which was a notice that read “If you registered accidentally, call our customer support center, and we’ll help you right away.” So Go decided to do just that, and below is the record of the conversational battle of wits our reporter engaged in with the porn site’s customer service reps.
▼ The entire lengthy discussion can be viewed here, in Japanese, but a translated summary follows.
Internet Patrol staff member: Customer support center.
Go Hattori: Hello. The other day, I looked at your site, and I heard a shutter sound.
IP: Yes, when you register, there is a shutter sound.
GH: What does that sound mean?
IP: Ah, the sound means your registration is complete.
GH: But, what does the sound mean?
IP: Yeah, that sound is…well…
GH: It means that a picture of something was taken, right?
IP: Well, then yeah, a picture of something was probably taken. I don’t know of what though. I mean, you heard the shutter, right?
The slippery Internet Patrol employee wasn’t saying that hey had a picture of Go’s face, but he wasn’t denying it either, so our reporter decided to force the issue.
GH: So what was a picture taken of?
IP: Look, why is it that you’re calling? What’s your member ID number?
GH: Oh, it’s –
IP: Please hold on a moment.
The operator then left Go on hold for two minutes and five seconds. But Go displayed his legendary tenacity by sitting in his comfortable chair and waiting until the operator finally returned.
IP: So, can I have your ID number?
IP: I need to check on some things, so please hold.
And then Go was on hold for another two minutes and 57 seconds, until the operator came back with:
IP: Last night, at 11:19, you registered with our site. So why are you calling?
GH: I heard a shutter noise,
IP: I’m not talking about the shutter sound. I can’t talk about that. I’m not talking about the shutter sound.
It’s kind of sweet that he actually thought that would even slow Go down.
GH: So I heard a shutter sound, and it said “Your device data has been securely saved.”
IP: First of all, how did you find our site? Did you erase your cookies? Look, you don’t have the right code, so I’m going to hang up.
GH: What? What code?
IP: Yeah, the code. Please contact us once you have it.
GH: What code?
IP. Good luck with that. Good luck with that. So, did you have something you wanted to say?
This was actually a pretty impressive attempt to simultaneously confuse and frustrate Go. However, became neither, keeping a cool head as he had in similar battles before.
GH: So, I heard this shutter sound.
IP: Look, I’m not asking you about the shutter sound right now. I’d like to know just why you’re calling us.
GH: So, the message I got said something about a contract costing 150,000 yen.
IP: Yes, yes, yes.
GH: But before we get into that, there was this shutter sound-
IP: What are you talking about? Don’t just go moving the conversation along however you want to.
GH: So what is the shutter sound?
IP: Before we talk about that, why are you calling?
GH: I got a message that said ID registration was complete, and when I clicked, it gave me an ID number, so I called.
IP: Oh, really. Well can you call us again once you’ve got your campaign code? You don’t have one, so you’re talking nonsense.
GH: What? I don’t understand.
Apparently sensing a crack in Go’s defenses, the Internet Patrol employee began barraging our reporter with straight-up gibberish.
IP: Dyundorurun dyundyururu, you know? Right?
IP: That’s what’s going on with you. You’re warping. A pumpkin. Really, what you’re doing is warping. Don’t warp. It’s better to do things in order. So nope, I can’t help you.
GH: Look, my friend told me about this site, so I wanted to check it out and-
IP: Oh, I get it. This is a prank call, isn’t it?
GH: No, no, not at all.
IP: This is a prank call. You don’t even have a code. Look, is it OK if I just hang up? I’m busy. Sir, I…I have a hangover.
IP: I drank too much. So I’m not in the mood for prank calls.
GH: No, this isn’t a prank call. I’m worried about what sort of picture was taken.
And with that, the Internet Patrol employee unceremoniously hung up.
So Go unceremoniously called right back, and the same employee answered the phone again.
IP: Customer support center.
GH: Hello. I think a picture was taken of something-
IP: Is that you again? I don’t know anything about a picture. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t. Just what is it you want? Cut to the chase.
GH: I want to know if a picture was taken.
IP: Cut to the chase.
GH: Yes, yes, I will. I’m worried, so I want to know whether or not a picture was actually taken.
IP: I want you to tell me why you’re calling. That’s what I’m asking.
GH: So like I keep trying to tell you, I heard a shutter and-
IP: Look, can you stop calling us?
GH: I’d like keep calling until I get an answer, because I’m really worried.
IP: Look, buddy, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m the one who’s worried. I’m going to have a nervous breakdown talking to you. I’m having a nervous breakdown, and it’s your fault.
GH: When I said I heard a shutter sound, you said “Yes, yes.”
IP: I want to drink some Cabe 2 [a popular Japanese energy drink/hangover cure].
GH: Cabe 2? Oh, OK. I think clams are good for hangovers too. But anyway-
IP: Clams…clam soup…like 10 of them, right?
GH: Yeah, it really does the trick.
IP: I’m intrigued. That sounds really good.
Go could see that the conversation was getting a little off track. Still, sometimes you have to deal with online scammers like you’re catching a fish, letting out a little line and letting them run with it where they want before trying to reel them back in.
GH: So I’m worried about the shutter sound.
IP: Have any of your pubes turned gray?
GH: Yeah, some of them have.
IP: Hmm…so you must be pretty up there in age.
GH: Uh, yeah, I guess so.
GH: So I’d be worried if some sort of picture was taken using my phone’s camera.
IP: Like what?
GH: Like a picture of me.
IP: What do you mean by “a picture of you?”
GH: I mean just that: a picture of me,
IP: Oh, I see. Well, I’ve got other callers on hold, so I’ll be hanging up.
True to his word, the Internet Patrol employee hung up again, which of course just meant that Go called him back again, entering into a third telephone conversation with his adversary.
IP: Hello, customer support center.
IP: You just won’t let it go, will you? You seriously won’t.
GH: So, a picture of something was taken, right?
IP: Give it a rest, No, no picture was taken.
Finally! After nearly ten minutes on the phone, Go had finally gotten the employee to admit that the shutter sound was a scam.
GH: It wasn’t?
IP: Nooooo it wasn’t.
GH: So what does the “device data saved” message mean?
IP: We didn’t. Look, just stop. Stop with the prank calls.
GH: So my device data wasn’t saved?
IP: Seriously, seriously stop.
GH: But I’m really worried-
IP: Stop. Stop lying. You’re not worried at all, right?
GH: I am. So you’re saying my picture wasn’t taken?
IP: No, it wasn’t. And even if it was, so what? You got something to feel guilty about? Your picture wasn’t taken. Would it have been fun for you if it had been? Instead of making prank calls, you should get a job.
GH: Thank you for the advice.
IP: Seriously. Get a job.
GH: I’m actually calling you before I go to the office.
IP: What kind of job do you do? What…just what the hell kind of work do you do?
GH: So, my picture wasn’t taken?
IP: No, it wasn’t. Quit bothering me. Why do you keep calling? We don’t need your smartphone information. Your phone calls are scaring me. Your calls are scaring me.
And for the third time, the Internet Patrol employee hung up on Go. But Go felt bad about leaving things on such an uncordial note, so he called back just one more time.
He felt just a twinge of sadness, though, when he heard a different Internet Patrol employee answer the phone instead of the familiar voice he’d been expecting. On the plus side, this employee was far more polite and patient, and after a few half-hearted attempts at giving Go the runaround, began providing far more concrete answers.
GH: I heard a shutter sound, so I was worried that a picture was taken.
Internet Patrol employee 2: No, we don’t do anything like that. The site just makes a noise so that it’s easier to know that the user registration is complete.
GH: Oh, I see. So when it says my device data has been stored, the photos and other things I have saved on my phone, are they-
IP2: No, we can’t see any of that. Your personal information, we can’t access anything private data like that.
GH: And no picture of me was taken?
IP2: No, not at all. We don’t have that sort of capability.
GH: Ah, that’s good to know. I feel a lot better now.
IP2: So, if you’re not planning on watching any of our site’s videos…we’ll…delete your registration. Is…is that OK with you?…If you don’t watch anything, there are no charges, but there will be if you do.
GH: I’m not planning on watching any.
IP2: In that case, we’ll delete your registration. Is that OK?
GH: I didn’t register.
IP2: Actually, you are registered. We’re sorry about that. But there are no charges just for registering,
GH: I see.
IP2: So, if you don’t have any future plans to watch our videos, we could keep our costs down if you’d let us delete your registration.
GH: Ah, I see. Well, in any case, my picture hasn’t been taken, and my personal information hasn’t been leaked, right?
IP: Yes, that’s correct.
GH: Thank you.
IP: Excuse me.
Thus ended Go’s battle with the attempted scammers, with our reporter coming away no charges to pay, an admission that the site was bluffing on its scary attempts to solicit payment, and even an apology of sorts. While we’re always happy to see Go go toe-to-toe with Internet villains, we don’t recommend copying his methods, since in the modern era of caller ID dialing up some con artists gives them your phone number.
And while we’re on the subject of things we recommend not doing, we’d also say that messing with Go, or his friends’ kids, online is a bad, bad idea.
[ Read in Japanese ]