Online scammers have reinvented an age-old online romance scam by posing as a Russian cosmonaut who needs money to return home to planet Earth. Be that as it may, the hustle recently managed to catch a woman living in Japan, who allegedly sent 4.4 million yen ($30,000) to the unknown criminals.
The scammers first contacted the anonymous 65-year-old from the city of Higashi-Omi in Shiga Prefecture via Instagram in June 2022, Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reports.
According to The Mainichi newspaper, the pair then began communicating through the Japanese messaging app Line, where he explained that he was working on the International Space Station as an astronaut. He expressed a desire to start a new life in Japan and declared his love for the unsuspecting victim, claiming he would marry her once he returned to Earth.
He allegedly sent her messages saying, “I want to start my life in Japan” and “Saying it 1,000 times won’t be enough, but I’ll keep saying it. I love you.”
However, as love stories often do, things quickly got complicated. He claimed he needed a “landing pad” to return home and set up a new life in Japan. Between August 19 and September 5, he sent the individual a total of ¥4.4 million through five separate bank transfers.
When the person continued to ask for money, she became suspicious and decided to consult the police. The Higashi-Omi Police Station is currently investigating the crime.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first astronaut-themed online hoax. In 2016, an email scam was doing the rounds in which someone pretended to be the cousin of Nigeria’s first astronaut, Abacha Tunde. So the story went, Tunde had been unwittingly left on a Soviet space station when the Soviet Union fell apart.
“He’s in a good mood, but he wants to come home,” the email read.
The hoax claimed that the cousin was being paid for his years of continued solitary service to the tune of over $15 million, but required a large sum of money to return to Earth and release the money. If the victim was willing to pay $3 million, he could obtain 20 percent of the astronaut’s fortune.
Needless to say, it was a scam. Abacha Tunde does not exist (at least he is certainly not a lost space explorer) and there have never been any Nigerian astronauts.
So if you ever get a message from an attractive astronaut who needs your help getting back to Earth, it’s safe to assume it’s too good to be true.