According to INTERPOL, a man, identified as Hikaru Morikawa, allegedly swindled 400 million yen (USD 3 million) using fake female profiles on matchmaking apps in an international romance scam.
Confirming the scam, NHK World-Japan news reported that “Morikawa’s scam group found their victims on dating apps” and “posed as an American writer and female Japanese doctor living abroad to win affection and persuade the victims to send money to cover living and other expenses.”
While some people might say they would never fall for this type of scam, it is commonplace for men to fall in love with someone they think is real on the internet and then have their bank account wiped out for love.
In fact, the United States Federal Trade Commission reported in February 2022 that “In the past five years, people have reported losing a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams, more than any other FTC fraud category.”
Romance scammers weave all sorts of believable stories to con people, but their old standby involves pleas for help while claiming one financial or health crisis after another. The scammers’ stories might involve a sick child or a temporary inability to get to their money for a whole range of reasons. People who lost money to a romance scammer often report sending money repeatedly: they believe they’re helping someone they care about. But it’s all a lie.
An article from the United States Federal Trade Commission explained.
Notwithstanding the warnings, men continue to fall for the scams like the one allegedly created by Morikawa’s group.
How police caught up with Morikawa
In Morikawa’s case, the Ghana Police Service confirmed on their Twitter account that they received a request from INTERPOL Tokyo to arrest Morikawa in Ghana following the revocation of his passport by Japanese authorities (Morikawa appears to have been living in Ghana at the height of the scam).
According to the Ghana Police Service, Morikawa appeared before the court in August and the Ghana Police Service worked with the Ghana Immigration Service, INTERPOL Tokyo and the Japanese Embassy in Ghana to remove Morikawa from Ghana, who has now returned to Japan to face prosecution, according to an INTERPOL report.
INTERPOL also noted that police arrested a further 15 accomplices, many of whom were money mules (according to INTERPOL, “money mules are people recruited by criminals, often unwittingly, to transfer funds on their behalf and launder their illicit profits”).
INTERPOL has now started a campaign to warn unsuspecting persons of these types of scams and the use of money mules (video below).