Police warn of "sweetheart scams" in North Texas
A multinational romance scam targeting elderly individuals across the U.S. had ties to North Texas, authorities say.
Driving the news: The Nigerian group's leader, Ifeanyichukwu Obi of Grand Prairie, was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity and theft of property over $300,000.
- Obi's court hearing revealed his connection to callers in Nigeria who scam the elderly into sending money to their online love interest.
- Authorities say three other North Texans were indicted in the case for engaging in criminal activity and property theft.
Why it matters: Last year, the FBI received more than 19,000 complaints about confidence and romance scams with reported losses of almost $740 million.
The big picture: The Yahoo Boys are accused of targeting dozens of people across the country and laundering their money to Nigeria, the Tarrant County district attorney's office said.
Details: Colleyville police began investigating the Yahoo Boys in 2019, when a UPS store reported that an elderly customer was shipping numerous packages of cash to different addresses, Colleyville Police chief Michael Miller tells Axios.
- "This group was involved in romance scams, lottery scams, small business administration, COVID fraud, business email compromise — pretty much you name it, they were involved in it," Miller says.
- Obi, who was living in Grand Prairie at the time, sent $1.3 million in stolen money to people in Nigeria over a two-month span in 2019, per the district attorney's office.
Zoom in: One of the victims, a 70-year-old widow, told FOX4 that a man talked to her for weeks and "pulled every heart string" to persuade her to loan him money, swindling her out of $75,000.
- "I fell for it. It's embarrassing. I'm not a stupid person, but believe me, they have got their act together," said the woman, who asked the station that she not be identified. "It was such a big deal that I even had my church ladies praying for it."
Meanwhile: Colleyville has had an uptick in "grandson scams" in which scammers call elderly residents to say their grandchild is in jail and needs to be bailed out, Miller tells Axios.
- He says Colleyville police investigated three scams a few months ago involving people who befriended teenagers on social media platforms, tricked them into sending explicit photos of themselves and blackmailed them for money.
The bottom line: "At the end of the day, you have to be suspicious if everything you learn about this person is just through some social media channel. The tools are so good now, they could make anything look legit," Miller tells Axios.
Be smart: The Senior Source, a Dallas-based advocacy organization, has a webpage offering tips on how to identify common scams.
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