There is a semi-mythical scam which comes around every couple of years, like some sort of digital bad luck version of Halley’s Comet. Instead of flood, famine, and the death of Kings, it brings confusion, some level of hilarity, and a slice of sheer disbelief.
Unfortunately it also threatens to clean out somebody’s bank account. While I’m not aware of someone having lost money to this scam previously, it struck gold in 2022. An arrow fired roughly 18 years ago has finally found its mark.
Did I mention the arrow is in space?
2004: First contact
Cast your mind back to 2004, because that’s where our tale begins. A frankly spectacular email claimed to be from one Dr. Bakare Tunde, an “Astronautics Project Manager” who really needed some help. This is because he claimed his cousin, Abacha Tunde, was stranded on a secret Soviet military space station via the Soyuz, which would typically be one of its flights to and from the International Space Station.
A huge amount of wealth had accumulated up there in space on account of his wages still being paid somehow, instead of just bringing him back down from the super secret space station. The plan was to have a huge slice of cash transferred to the bank account of the potential victim, which would then allow them to access the $15,000,000 held in a trust. This would then be used to bring the lost astronaut home.
Yes, it’s all very silly. The email came and went with a lot of eye-rolling and mockery. Off it went back into the depths of space, never to be seen again.
2010: Still hitching a ride
Wrong. It’s now 2010, and Dr. Bakare Tunde is still asking for help to get his cousin, Abacha Tunde, returned to Earth. It seems nobody heeded the call, and so he’s back for another round of very peculiar investor funding.
As you might imagine, nobody still seems to be falling for this one. It’s just simply too far fetched for anybody to take seriously. Once again, the secret Soviet space station is lost to the void. This is surely Abacha’s last stand, isn’t it?
2016: The Abacha comeback special
Nope. Wind forward to 2016. He’s back! And he’s still trapped in space. Yes, our intrepid astronaut Abacha Tunde has now been sitting in space next to piles of cargo for 25 years. He’s very tired. A more inventive astronaut would’ve surely tried to rig the controls and land the thing in a field by this point. Instead, he’s still up there. At this point, there were even suspicions that this wasn’t a genuine scam (those words aren't contradictory, we promise) anymore but a parody. Someone had simply dusted off a classic, so to speak, and fired it out as a joke.
I can only imagine Abacha was furious. Anyway, after everybody did their customary laughter and waved him off, that was absolutely, definitely the last time anybody would see him again.
2022: Passing the space baton
Well yes, actually, as it turns out. Abacha Tunde was indeed gone for good, only to be replaced in 2022 by an all new Russian astronaut stranded in space. Sadly for Abacha, this all new astronaut was trapped on the International Space Station and not the increasingly rusty Soviet base.
Our nameless space explorer had a social media page, apparently posting fake images to an Instagram account and luring in a 65 year old woman in Japan. This was to be no ordinary request for space transportation, but was actually a completely bizarre romance scam. The astronaut still needed help returning to Earth, but if she helped him out, he’d move to Japan and presumably settle down.
He extracted around $30,000 from her over a period of about a month. As the requests for cash increased, the victim became suspicious and contacted law enforcement. At this point, the facade collapsed and she realised she’d been swindled.
We cover romance scams a lot, and this is the second major one in as many weeks to hit the news in Japan. It’s a valuable reminder that this kind of attack can strike no matter where you’re located.
If you’re curious about the bizarre, historically accurate details from the original attack way back in 2004, someone pieced it all together during Abacha’s third and final appearance. We can only hope that he’s finally gone forever, because the last thing we need is two lost romance scammers bringing peril from the sky.