Online fraudsters have reinvented an age-old online romance scam by pretending to be a Russian cosmonaut who needs money to return home to planet Earth. As far out as it may seem, the hustle recently managed to hook one woman living in Japan who reportedly sent 4.4 million yen ($30,000) to the unknown criminals.
The scammers originally contacted the 65-year-old unnamed person from Higashi-Omi City in Shiga Prefecture via Instagram in June 2022, Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reports.
According to The Mainichi newspaper, the pair then began communicating via 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 upon his return to Earth.
He reportedly sent her messages saying: “I want to start my life in Japan” and “Saying this 1,000 times won’t be enough, but I’ll keep saying it. I love you.”
However, as love stories often do, things quickly became complicated. He claimed he required a “landing fee” to return home and set up a new life in Japan. Between August 19 and September 5, she sent the person a total of 4.4 million yen through five separate bank transfers.
When the person continued to ask for money, she grew suspicious and decided to consult the police. The Higashi-Omi Police Station is currently investigating the crime.
Believe it or not, this is not the first astronaut-themed online scam. Back in 2016, an email scam was going around in which someone was pretending to be the cousin of Nigeria’s first astronaut, Abacha Tunde. So the story went, Tunde had been unwittingly left on board a Soviet space station when the Soviet Union dissolved.
“He is in good humor, but wants to come home,” the email read.
The hoaxer claimed the cousin was still getting paid for his years of ongoing solitary service, amounting to over $15 million, but required a large sum of money to return to Earth and release the funds. If the victim was willing to pay $3 million, they could obtain 20 percent of the astronaut’s fortune.
Needless to say, it was a scam. Abacha Tunde doesn’t exist (at least he’s certainly not a lost space explorer) and there have never been any Nigerian astronauts.
So, if you ever receive a message from an attractive astronaut who needs your help to return to Earth, it’s safe to assume it's too good to be true.