Police: Elderly Florida woman scammed by Nigerian she met on dating website

ajc.com

Police are investigating how a 79-year-old woman in Florida was scammed out of her money by someone whom she met on a dating website.

The woman told deputies that she’d been sending money to Nigeria for years.

A stranger stepped in to help the woman after seeing her crying at the St. Augustine Walmart.

“I was in line at Walmart and I noticed this elderly woman on her cellphone," Lance Hayes said. "She was crying and asking somebody for some cab fare."

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Hayes said he offered to help her and she told him she needed the money because she’d been wiring money to Nigeria.

He called St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office deputies, who found that the woman had wired $700 to a Nigerian account on Friday.

“She’s behind on her rent, you know, and this has been going on for years, so it’s just unbelievable that people would do this to somebody so vulnerable,” said Hayes.

Investigators said someone in Nigeria who calls himself James Coleman told the woman that he needed the money for sick relatives.

The woman said he also told her that if she sent money, he would buy her whatever she wanted, such as a house or a car.

A deputy who looked at her phone saw that she’d received 121 calls from the same number since 1:28 a.m. that day.

WJAX left a voicemail for the number. No one has returned the call.

“She obviously is very vulnerable," Hayes said. "I mean, she has the beginning stages of dementia. She’s lonely. The only person calling her is this person who’s looking to take her money."

Hayes worries that the woman is going to relapse into sending more money to the scammer. He said he’s going to stay in her life.

“We got together yesterday and did a little shopping. She’s very nice,” Hayes said.

Hayes said he hopes people will look a little closer at their elderly loved ones’ habits.