Police in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, have reported a surge in the misuse of bank and other accounts held by foreign nationals in phone scams, nearly tripling over the past three years.
The police said such fraud cases in the prefecture have been increasing at the fastest pace ever. They identified 2,051 cases from the beginning of this year through the end of September. The damage from these thefts amounted to about 18 million dollars.
They said that of the roughly 1,600 confirmed accounts used to receive fraudulent cash, 312, or 20 percent, had foreign names.
Investigative sources said the nationalities of the foreign people appear diverse, with a Vietnamese surname being the most prevalent, accounting for 50 cases.
The police said the accounts were opened at financial institutions across Japan.
They suspect that the growth in the number of foreign nationals' accounts used in scam cases may be linked to the illegal practice of buying and selling accounts, possibly involving foreign students or trainees leaving Japan.
Such accounts are reportedly being traded on social media for several hundred dollars each.
The police are intensifying efforts to crack down on the transactions. They are also urging the public, especially the elderly, not to follow instructions over the phone to transfer money to foreign nationals' accounts.