National / Crime & Legal

30% of mobile phones used in Tokyo fraud cases contracted under Vietnamese names

JIJI

Some 30 percent of mobile phones used in special fraud cases reported in Tokyo between January and August were contracted under the names of Vietnamese nationals, an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department has found.

The number of such mobile phones involved in special fraud cases, including the so-called “ore ore sagi,” or “It’s me” scam, has surged this year.

Investigative sources said the culprits may be using authentic residence cards belonging to Vietnamese residents in response to stepped-up police countermeasures against forged identification documents.

The Tokyo police have asked Japanese-language schools and others to instruct people on proper identification management.

A Vietnamese man in his early 30s who came to Japan last year contacted a Facebook user after seeing a message posted in Vietnamese that offered to mediate the conclusion of mobile phone contracts for people who cannot speak Japanese.

In late April this year, he met up with a young Vietnamese man at Akihabara Station.

The two then went to a nearby electronics and home appliances store where the man handed over his passport, residence card and bank passbook to the mediator.

The man in his 30s was able to acquire a smartphone, paying the intermediary ¥5,000 for his services.

Some two months later, the man received bills aside from his own smartphone for two budget cellphones that he did not know about.

He tried to ask about the phones, as he had no recollection of signing up for them, but was unable to get in touch with the young Vietnamese man.

Of the two mobile phones, police discovered that one was used to make a call for fraudulent purposes to the home of a woman in her 70s in Tokyo’s Koto Ward in April.

As the contract to buy the budget smartphone was dated the day the man asked the young Vietnamese man to mediate, the police believe the intermediary used the man’s documents to contract the device without permission and that the phone was handed over to fraudsters.

According to the sources, the number of mobile phones contracted using Vietnamese identification that were used in special fraud cases surged to 144 in the period between January and August, accounting for 30 percent of the total and up drastically from two devices recorded for the whole of 2017.

Of the 144, around 90 percent were budget smartphones, which users can buy without having to directly meet with staff at mobile carrier stores.

A major carrier selling budget smartphones found that Vietnamese people accounted for over 90 percent of its foreign customers contracting mobile phones in and after April this year.

While admitting that the figure was “obviously at an abnormal level,” an official of the company said that “we’re helpless” if people use valid residence cards.

“The Vietnamese people who have become isolated (from society) due to inability to receive support end up relying on suspicious businesses,” said Akiyoshi Naito, a corporate consultant who has supported Vietnamese nationals residing in Japan.

“Distortions of the (Japanese) technical training program and study programs (in Japan) are leading to an increase in crimes,” he added.