A woman was scammed by a 'Russian Astronaut,' who claimed he needed money to return to Earth

The woman transferred 4.4 million yen after the scammer promised to marry her after returning to Earth.
Ameya Paleja
Astronaut stock image.
Astronaut stock image.

Sergey Khakimullin/iStock 

A 65-year-old Japanese woman was scammed online by a scammer claiming to be a Russian astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), Vice has reported. The matter came to light after the woman grew suspicious of the large sum of money he wanted her to transfer to him.

With the rise in internet usage, the number of online scams has also increased considerably. At Interesting Engineering, we report the latest crypto-scams so that people do not fall for them in their attempts to connect with the new-age technology.

There is also the category of influencer scams - where individuals who have quite a bit of fan following on social media advise people to invest in schemes that can deliver very high returns. But sometimes, we also come across scams that do not make any sense at all. The entire episode has scam written over it, and yet, people fail to spot it.

The 'Russian astronaut' Romance scam

According to the reports in the local media, the 65-year-old unnamed victim first made contact with the scammer on Instagram, where the latter had uploaded a few pictures of space. Claiming to be working at the ISS, the scammer said he had limited access to cell service.

The conversation quickly moved to a Japanese messaging app, LINE, where the scammer made multiple confessions of his love for the woman and how he intended to start a new life with her in Japan. There was only one problem; he needed to return back to Earth first.

To do so, the astronaut needed some money and also explained the various heads of expenditure he had before the two could be united. These included some bizarre claims like landing fees in Japan and the cost of the rocket to fly to the country.

Unsuspecting, the woman transferred a sum of 4.4 million yen (US$30,000) towards these expenses in five installments over a period of lesser than a month. However, when the astronaut continued to ask for more money, the woman reported the matter to the local police, who are now investigating the case.

Not the first Russian astronaut

Interestingly, this is not a one-off incident where a scammer tapped into someone's fascination for spacewalkers. Another Japanese woman in her 40s was followed by the Instagram handle claiming to be a Russian astronaut at the ISS, local news outlet Asahi reported.

Over the next two days, the duo interacted using the direct messages feature of the app, where the astronaut is likely to have used software to translate messages into Russian, while the woman used Japanese to converse, the outlet said.

The "astronaut" then requested to move the conversation to another app, which got the woman suspicious, who then ended the conversation there.

It is also likely that there are many more such cases that haven't been reported to the police. Japanese police do not maintain separate records of Romance scams, such as this one, but have recorded a sharp uptick in online scams over the past decade, Vice said in its report.

These tricks have also found their way to the battlefield. Last month, Interesting Engineering reported how Ukrainian hackers posed as attractive women on social media to get Russian soldiers to reveal their locations, which were allegedly targeted by the Ukrainian Army.

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