Woman Duped Out of $30K in Out-of-This-World Scam

Online lover convinced 65-year-old in Japan he was astronaut who needed cash to return to Earth
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2022 7:26 AM CDT
Updated Oct 15, 2022 4:45 PM CDT
Fake Astronaut Wooed Woman to Pay for Return Ticket to Earth
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/fizkes)

Nigerian prince scams are so 1990s—welcome to the 21st century and the Russian cosmonaut scam. Kyodo News reports that police are looking into the claims of a 65-year-old woman in Japan's Shiga prefecture who said she fell in love with a man online who tricked her into sending him the equivalent of $30,000 so that he could return to Earth from the International Space Station. Per local media, the woman began corresponding on Instagram with the fake astronaut at the end of June, and he soon began telling her he loved her and that "I want to start my life in Japan," including by marrying her.

The two eventually switched over to the Line messaging app, and the phony space traveler dropped it on the woman that their life together could never come to pass unless he could hitch a ride home to terra firma from the ISS. And so, between Aug. 19 and Sept. 5, the woman made five different transfers so that her supposed soon-to-be husband could pay for a rocket and "landing fees." His hard sell was made more believable, she says, by the fact that he regularly dropped names such as NASA and JAXA, or the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. They'd occasionally fall out of communication, but that's because the man said that it was hard to get a cellphone signal on the ISS.

The woman's suspicions were gradually aroused as the demands for money continued, and she eventually called the cops. For those who may find themselves being wooed by a similar scamster, Gizmodo notes some of the red flags, including that the ISS doesn't have cell service (astronauts use a dedicated communications network to keep in touch with colleagues on Earth), and that astronauts who are sent into space get an automatic return ticket for their efforts. Also: Astronauts "likely do not spend their time scrolling on Instagram," the site notes. (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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