Elderly woman suspected of falling for ‘out of this world’ love scam

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Shiga prefectural police office

HIGASHI-OMI, Shiga — She believed he loved her. And that he was a Russian cosmonaut as he claimed. And that he actually needed money to return to Earth from the International Space Station. Now she is out ¥4.4 million.

Police said Friday it suspects that a 65-year-old woman has fallen victim to fraud after transferring that amount in a case it is investigating as an international romance scam, in which a fraudster swindles money from a person by establishing a deceitful relationship.

According to the Higashi-Omi Police Station in Shiga Prefecture, the Higashi-Omi woman met the self-proclaimed Russian man via Instagram on June 28. He told her that he worked on the International Space Station.

The alleged cosmonaut started sending her messages on the Line message app, telling her that he wanted to start a new life in Japan and professing his love for her. In one message, he said that saying it 1,000 times would not be enough, but he will continue to say he loves her.

The person subsequently requested money needed for landing fees for a rocket’s return to Earth and other purposes. The woman believed the story and made five wire transfers totaling ¥4.4 million between Aug. 19 and Sept. 5.

However, as the requests continued, she became suspicious and reported the case to the police.

“As he brought up the name of existing organizations like NASA [the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration] and JAXA [the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency], I believed him,” the woman was quoted as telling the police.