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[February 2020]

Gift of love? It might be a sign of international romance scam

The Cross-border Consumer center Japan (CCJ)* has received some inquiries and complaints about international romance scams. There are foreign scammers who build an online relationship with targets and pretend to be their loved ones on SNS or matching apps with an attempt to trick them into sending money.

Various tactics have been used in international romance scams. In a typical case, a scammer asks a victim to receive a package and later the victim is charged a customs clearance fee, etc. when receiving the package.

  1. * CCJ was established in the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan to resolve problems between consumers in Japan and businesses outside Japan.
    https://www.ccj.kokusen.go.jp/ (written in Japanese)

Sampling of inquiries and complaints

I was charged for postage on delivery.

I met a woman on an international networking site and got close to her. She told she was serving on active duty in Somali. One day she said on SNS, "I'm going to send a package to Japan. Will you kindly receive it for me?" I accepted the request and gave her my personal information. Later a delivery company informed me that I needed to pay 500,000 yen of postage and urged me to make an international payment within a few days. I didn't think that I had to pay money to receive a package. She didn't tell me what she was going to send. It's quite odd.

Other cases

  • When I tracked shipment of a gift on a specified site, I found that I was charged a customs clearance fee.
  • Since my online partner sent me a passport, I believed the person and accepted to receive a package. Then, I was charged an expensive fee.
  • I accepted to receive a cash card to be used for transferring property. Later I was charged a customs clearance fee.
  • My online partner asked me to pay a fee to obtain permission to take holidays to visit Japan.

Advice for consumers

  1. Do not easily promise to receive an international package with someone you just met online.
  2. Even if you are requested to pay a fee for your online partner, do not pay it.
  3. When you think someone around you has been scammed, encourage the person to consult a consumer affairs center.
  4. In case of concern, consult your local consumer affairs center before transferring money.