The woman lost nearly $800,000 in the scam.
ARIZONA, USA — A prolific online scammer has left a trail of elderly women across the country heartbroken and broke.
Court records allege Fola Alabi of Texas convinced women in ten states he was a U.S. military general stationed overseas and he needed financial help for various reasons.
“The victims believed the money they were sending was to help their overseas love interest or for managing their investment funds,” a criminal complaint states.
Arizona victim lost husband on Valentine’s Day
The victim hit hardest was a 70-year-old widow from Prescott Valley, AZ.
According to court records and police, she lost her husband on Valentine’s Day of 2021.
Alabi connected with her on social media and convinced her he was “General Austin Miller” stationed in the Middle East. The woman sent Alabi more than $330,000 and lost a half-million dollars to support the scam by selling her RV and jewelry, according to court records and statements made by the woman to the police.
Court documents stated Alabi convinced a 78-year-old widow from Rhode Island to send him a $60,000 cashier’s check. A 77-year-old woman from Tennessee sent him $86,000. A 66-year-old divorcee from North Carolina sent him $30,000.
The reasons he gave the women for why he needed the money varied.
Alabi faces federal charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and marketing scams to senior citizens.
Prescott Valley Police said after the woman realized she had been duped she was admitted to the hospital. Police said she made statements to them that prompted officers to get her medical help.
Online romance scams common among elderly
“It’s (online romance scams) one of the most common forms that we’re seeing on elder scams right now,” said Toni Brown of the Arizona Corporation Commission Securities Division. Brown investigates fraud.
“Loneliness is the number one factor why elderly people are scammed. For one, they want someone to talk to,” Brown said. “It doesn’t take much to get into that trusted area once they’ve set themselves up as someone who is willing to take the time to talk and listen to the elderly person.”
Prescott Valley police said the woman was hit so hard financially that she “stated that she did not have food to eat last week and has not been able to pay her bills.”
Fraud originating on social media is skyrocketing
A recent FTC report shows fraud originating on social media is skyrocketing, growing 19 times higher since 2017.
The pandemic appears to be fueling the trend, Brown said.
“People are afraid to go out. People are not socializing in the way they did before COVID. And so they are turning to their computers for that social interaction,” Brown said.
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