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Saturday, August 23, 2014

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Scam letter preys on Holocaust survivors

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Sara Saber-Freedman

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is alerting Holocaust survivors and their families not to be taken in by an “odious” scam that promises to unlock Swiss bank accounts in exchange for personal information.

CIJA became aware of a letter campaign that appears to be targeting the Jewish community and which in one case advised a Calgary resident that one of their relatives killed during the Holocaust had left $75 million in a Swiss bank account. The letter bears the name of a consulting firm and a New York address and phone number.

Sara Saber-Freedman, executive vice-president of CIJA, said she contacted the letter writer by phone, but when she refused to turn over her cellphone number, he immediately hung up on her.

In the letter, copies of which were sent to others in Canada, the writer claims he is able to access the funds if the recipient of the letter provides extensive personal information.

Saber-Freedman said, “It’s exactly like every other one of those scams that you read about and you get by email all the time. I understand that Nigeria is the source of a lot of this type of fraud.”

While frauds of this nature prey on people’s trusting nature, this particular fraud “is revolting,” she said. “To use the Holocaust in this context is just vile.”

Survivors are elderly and can be vulnerable to this sort of pitch, she added.

Sidney Zoltak, co-president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, said similar “sick kinds of operations” have come up before, promising survivors they could recover funds on insurance policies and properties in Poland.

He advised survivors and their families to pursue claims through reputable organizations.

Zoltak said that while the current letter campaign did not ask for money up front, “this is the beginning. Once you get to speak to someone who is really smooth, they can talk you into a lot of things.”

They prey on the vulnerable and they’re ready “to take away their last savings and leave them penniless.

“They don’t care as long as they score,” he said.

Saber-Freedman said she had informed U.S. law enforcement authorities and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a government agency, about the letters.

 

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