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U.S. Citizen Services
Scams Targeting U.S. Citizens

Are you trying to help a U.S. citizen in distress overseas who keeps getting into deeper or more urgent trouble? If you’ve never met the person you’re trying to help – or if you’ve only met them briefly – it’s possible you’ve been targeted by a scammer.  We know this is difficult to believe, but it’s unfortunately a very common occurrence.  We receive inquiries every week from people who are unaware they’ve been targeted by a scam.

How do I know it’s a scam?

These are common scam scenarios:

  • Arrested or detained by police or at the airport and being forced to pay a fee
  • Hospitalized but not being treated until fees are paid
  • Disappeared while transiting Japan
  • Kidnapped or mugged with extreme violence
  • Stranded in a war zone in a foreign country

You may have tried to help this person before, but new hurdles arise – a lost phone, repeated flight delays, unexpected customs fees, taxes, a confiscated passport, etc. A child or elderly relative may be involved in the story, which makes the situation sound sadder and more urgent.

Hospitals and police stations in Japan will not demand payment from U.S. citizens in order to provide medical care, release a person from their custody, or bail someone out.

Real airport, embassy/consulate, hospital and police officials can help when emergencies arise, so if you’re being contacted with a request for money or multiple sad stories designed to get you to offer money, then it’s most likely a scam.

You should recommend that the person in distress directly contact the U.S. Embassy or consulate nearest them.  If they can get a hold of you, they are able to contact the Embassy.

Do not send money.

About scammers:

Scammers are often experts at impersonating romantic partners, military members, police, doctors, and airport staff and hiding their real name, nationality, race, or gender. You may even be communicating with multiple scammers pretending to be the same person.

They can dedicate weeks, months, or even years to gain your trust before asking for money, or they may be manipulating you into offering money.  We urge you to stop all contact with this individual and anyone claiming to represent them.

What should I do?

While the embassy does not have law enforcement capabilities, we urge you to report scams and take steps to protect yourself: