Scammers target survivors, attempting to defraud them

omaha | It was bad enough when millions of e-mail users found themselves bombarded with fraudulent pleas from Nigerian scammers. But last month, 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 US dollar [sic] 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 lifetime 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 said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard issued an alert warning residents 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 who received Graham’s e-mail 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. The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims was established in 1998 following negotiations among European insurance companies and U.S. insurance regulators, as well as international Jewish groups, survivor organizations and the state of Israel.

Taylor was able to persuade the staff of the Volker Committee to release a statement warning the public of this fraud. Paul Volker, the former secretary of the Treasury, heads the ICEP (actually, the International Committee of Eminent Persons), which consists of representatives from Swiss banks and the Jewish community. The 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.