“Romance fraud” targeting women on the rise in and outside Okinawa

“Romance fraud” targeting women on the rise in and outside Okinawa

ID and message sent by perpetrator trying to deceive the woman (provided by the woman; part of the image has been modified)

February 1, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Masaaki Umeda and Ami Chibana

A specific type of scam called “international romance fraud” has been on the rise in and outside of Okinawa. This scam involves perpetrators pretending to be foreign servicemen on social networking services (SNS) and dating apps to defraud women of money by making women fall in love with them.

They pretend to be in the dangerous and harsh field of war and flatter women with promises of love to swindle them out of money using various excuses.

Victims have been transferring money into specified bank accounts before meeting with the perpetrators who claim they are military personnel.

Misaki Smith is a representative of a non-profit organization (NPO) Women’s Pride that provides consultation on problems that arise in relationships between Americans and Japanese.

She warns that, “Servicemen are well-trusted, so the scammers are likely to pretend to be military personnel.

They will emphasize that they are wealthy and the one thing that they have in common is that they will frequently say ‘I want to see you’ and ‘I want to marry you.

’ I don’t want people to ever send money to people they have never met.”


Last year, Women’s Pride provided counsel to women ages 20 to 50 in and outside of Okinawa that experienced this scam.

Last August, a single woman in her 50s living in the Kansai region sought counsel.

After registering for a dating service on a major portal website, she received a Facebook message.

The sender claimed to be a U.S. army surgeon serving on the frontline in the Middle East and often courted the woman and wanted to marry her.

The sender requested that she hold on to something that was important to him. However, in order to receive the goods, she was to transfer money into a specified bank account.


The woman had received a photo of the man’s ID and even spoke with him over a videophone.

She then tried to transfer the 800,000-yen as instructed, but the financial institution would not allow the funds to be transferred to the specified account in the Middle East.

The man then provided her with an address in Chiba Prefecture and asked that she transfer the money to a post office account instead.


Finding this suspicious, the woman sought counsel from Women’s Pride and found out that it was a scam.

The woman said, “Even though I had not met him, I got lost in and moved by the words like ‘I don’t want to die here (in the field of war)’ and “I’ll escape and come to you.’ I had my suspicions, but I just thought foreigners casually use these sorts of passionate phrases.”


Smith who handled the woman’s case was surprised when she saw the photo ID that was sent by the perpetrator.

The pay grade did not match the rank and the uniform worn in the photo did not match the rank.

In another photo in which the man is wearing a white coat was of a doctor that actually exists, but someone else’s face photoshopped in.


Smith points out that she “is pretty sure there are much more people who are crying themselves to sleep after suffering the damages of the scam.”

Regarding the name “romance fraud,” she said, “It’s inappropriate since it can give off a positive impression. To prevent further damage, the name should be changed.”


(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)


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