A man posing as a Russian astronaut in space allegedly conned a Japanese woman into paying for his return trip to Earth, promising to marry her once he arrived.
In June, the man discovered the 65-year-old anonymous victim on Instagram. On his page, he posted odd space photographs and claimed to work at the International Space Station, where astronauts have restricted mobile coverage.
Their connection rapidly became strained. He constantly expressed his love for her and proposed marriage on a Japanese messaging app. He wrote to her, “I want to start my life in Japan,” news outlet TV Asahi reported.
But, he reasoned, he needed money to return to Earth to tie the knot. He explained that there were landing costs to pay in Japan as well as the expense of a rocket to fly to the country.
According to the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, the woman paid him 4.4 million yen (about $30,000) in five payments from August 19 to September 5, believing him to be her future fiancé.
But when his demands grew, the woman became suspicious of his motives and reported him to the police, who are now looking into the matter as a romance scam, according to local media.
The number of fraud cases, which include romance scams, grew from 8,693 in 2012 to 14,498 last year, suggesting an approximately 67 percent increase over ten years, even though Japanese authorities do not collect data on romantic scams.
Although the police have claimed an increase since 2020, the number of reports seems to have decreased after reaching a peak in 2017 with 18,212 incidents.