Woman defrauded in space romance scam

A 65-year-old woman in Japan paid 4.4 million yen, or $30,000, for a return ticket to Earth for someone pretending to be a Russian astronaut.

Someone who said they were a Russian astronaut on the International Space Station first contacted a woman from Shiga Prefecture on Instagram in June and then asked her to continue their communication on Line, a Japanese messaging app.

The pretend astronaut told the unnamed woman that he was a Russian man who wanted to settle in Japan and marry her, according to Yomiuri Shimbun, a daily newspaper. "Even if I say it a thousand times, it won't be enough, but I will keep saying it. I love you," the purported astronaut told his victim.

There was only one obstacle to overcome – the astronaut first needed to return to Earth. He asked his victim to cover the expenses, including a rocket ride and "landing fees." The woman believed him and transferred 4.4 million yen in five installments from August 19 to September 5.

As demands continued, the woman grew suspicious and reported to the police. According to the local media, she believed the man was real because he mentioned the names of actual organizations, such as NASA or the Japanese space agency JAXA when texting with her.

The police opened a probe into an "international romance scam," or what seems to be a new variation of the scheme, set in space.

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