New Tactics in International Romance Scams | FRIDAY DIGITAL

New Tactics in International Romance Scams

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Document recreated based on communication with the victim (provided by Osaka Prefectural Police).

Finally, someone has even pretended to be “the daughter of Libya’s former top leader.”

Yuriko Hayashi (57), a resident of Tomitaka City, Osaka Prefecture, who is unemployed, was arrested by Suita Police Station, Osaka Prefecture, on suspicion of defrauding a man in his 60s in Shizuoka Prefecture of 1.9 million yen by impersonating the daughter of Colonel Gaddafi, who was killed in the civil war in ’11.

“Actually, this suspect, Ms. Hayashi, was arrested for fraud on May 10, making this her second arrest. In the previous case, she impersonated the manager of YOSHIKI from “X Japan” and swindled 2 million yen from a woman in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture. She convinced the victim to send money by claiming it was necessary for passports and travel expenses to accompany YOSHIKI on a trip abroad.”(A reporter from a national newspaper)

While posing as a rock star like YOSHIKI might be more believable, this time Ms. Hayashi used a bizarre scheme pretending to be Colonel Gaddafi’s daughter. How exactly did she deceive people to get money?

“Around March of this year, Ms. Hayashi created a social media profile pretending to be Aisha Gaddafi, daughter of Colonel Gaddafi. From there, she sent messages to victims claiming, ‘I am currently in Oman hiding. My family is targeted by the United Nations, and it seems they will seize all of my father’s inheritance. If you accept my offer, I will give you a part of the inheritance.’ She also explained, ‘I contacted you to start a new life together in Japan,’and said, ‘I need a security deposit to transport $12 million, part of my father’s estate.’ These messages were used to emotionally manipulate the male victims.’” (same source) 

Ms. Hayashi denied the accusations during police questioning, stating, “I received a message from YOSHIKI asking for help with work, and I simply followed instructions. I was tasked with managing YOSHIKI’s accounts.”

“In reality, there was a romance scam group backing Ms. Hayashi. Last year, she believed she was interacting with someone claiming to be YOSHIKI on social media, but it turned out to be a deception. Ms. Hayashi acted as a money launderer, transferring funds from victims to other accounts. She managed 23 bank accounts through which money obtained from romance scams was passed on to the group. Each time, Ms. Hayashi received a few tens of thousands yen as compensation from the romance scam group.” (Investigator)

A reproduction of the messages sent while impersonating Colonel Gaddafi’s daughter (provided by Osaka Prefectural Police).

When it comes to romance scams, the common tactic was to impersonate military personnel, diplomats, or UN officials, and appeal to victims by claiming to work in harsh environments.

“The reason for using a real person like Colonel Gaddafi’s daughter is to save the effort of creating a story to extract money. It’s easier than making up fictional characters and stories,” said the same source.

Ms. Hayashi remains a small player. “The methods of romance scam groups have become more complex to evade direct investigation,” added the investigator mentioned earlier.

“Ms. Hayashi is also a victim. She was manipulated for a small reward and that’s why she’s been arrested. Ms. Hayashi and the romance scam group have no contact outside of social media, and they know nothing about each other. The romance scam groups, like the special fraud groups, find both their targets and money launderers on social media. They hire for a pittance, don’t get their hands dirty themselves, and quickly discard them if danger looms, looking for new targets. With their only contact point being social media, investigations become challenging.”

The international romance scam losses for the last fiscal year alone are known to exceed 17.7 billion yen.

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