OMAHA, Aug. 24 — It was bad enough when millions of e-mail users found themselves bombarded with fraudulent pleas from Nigerian scammers. But last week, a new scam arrived in e-mail boxes, this one using the Holocaust to try to defraud unsuspecting responders. Coming from a “Mr. George Graham a member of Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP), Switzerland,” the e-mail states that the “Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT) handles processing of all claims on accounts due non-Swiss citizens. A dormant account of ‘ORDNER ADELE’ with a credit balance of 50,000,000 U.S. dollar plus accumulated interest was discovered by me. The beneficiary was murdered during the holocaust (sic) era, leaving no will and no possible records for trace of heirs.” And, of course, Graham—like the Nigerian scammers before him, makes this highly suspect request: “Being a member of ICEP, I have all secret details and necessary contacts for claim of the funds without any hitch. The funds will be banked in any country of your choice outside Switzerland or a tax free country, where we can safely withdrew the funds and…share the funds and use it for investment of our choice. Due to the sensitive nature of my job, I need a foreigner to help claim the funds.” What does the “helpful” Graham want from the e-mail recipient? “All that is required of you is to provide me with your details for processing of the necessary legal and administrative claim documents for transfer of the funds to you.” In other words, Graham wants details like your bank’s name, your name and your account number. Fat chance he’ll get this from the editors of Jewish newspapers to which he sent this fraudulent request. According to Phyllis Braun, Executive Editor of the Arizona Jewish Post in Tucson, “This scam e-mail’s invitation to ‘a life time of success without risks,’ juxtaposed with the suffering of Holocaust victims, is particularly repugnant.” Although Braun deletes such e-mails immediately, she worries that other people could be conned. She told the Omaha Jewish Press that Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard just issued an alert warning residents that the “Nigerian Advanced Fee” scam had resurfaced and reminding them “of the simple rule: If an offer sounds too good to be true—it is.” A survivor received this e-mail as well. He forwarded it to Jeanette Friedman-Sieradski, editor of Together, American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and Founder of Second Generation North Jersey. She just happens to know Gideon Taylor, a member of the Claims Conference. Taylor was able to persuade the staff of the Volker Committee to release a statement to the Press warning the public of this fraud. Paul Volker, the former Secretary of the Treasury, heads the International Committee of Eminent Persons, which is composed of representatives from Swiss banks and the Jewish community. ICEP was charged with investigating dormant accounts, and other assets of the victims of Nazi persecution or others that were deposited in Swiss banks around the time of the Second World War. In another case of Holocaust-related fraud, Friedman said, “there is a lawyer in Toronto who took up to $1,000 per survivor to file claims with Brooklyn Judge Edward R. Korman and then never filed them.” William Gauberson wrote in the April 30 New York Times, that “Judge Korman has ruled that such funds should be used for the ‘neediest survivors.’ He found that the grinding poverty in the former Soviet Union was so severe that he allocated 75 percent of the humanitarian funds available for Jewish survivors to that area. Four percent is to be used for impoverished survivors in the United States, with the balance going to Israel and elsewhere around the world.” Friedman added that anyone who finds themselves being scammed “is to immediately contact Judge Korman’s office in New York and file an application with extenuating circumstances — that a lawyer bilked them out of the money and never filed the claim, but they are eligible. Of course, they’ll need proof they were conned,” she added, “and probably have to attach it to the claim.” According to the Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, “This is a disgusting scam and one I suspect will be very painful for a number of people. It will probably generate more anger than interest. “Each of us are vulnerable at some point,” he added. “People are lonely, especially the elderly. These scams are designed to capitalize on that. They work because innocent people fall for them. This one’s especially horrible because it focuses on the pain of survivors. “I’m hopeful we can get the word out so no one falls for it,” the attorney general asserted. “We’ll take it from here and try to find out who these scammers are.” Like Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, “just say ‘no’ ” to e-mail scammers. Or, in this case, “just delete.”
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Carol Katzman is a contributing writer to JTA.
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