Confidence tricksters are targeting Jewish community members and claiming to be collecting donations for Israeli charities.
One man, wearing a long beard and black hat and using the name “Yuval”, has contacted retired, wealthy pensioners in south London and the Midlands.
He quotes legitimate charities, including UJIA and KKL, and knows personal details about his victims, including their marital status, home addresses and telephone numbers.
It is thought he may work in partnership with a woman using the name “Irene”. They ask for money to be sent to an address in Stamford Hill, north London.
A 62-year-old woman in Birmingham has been contacted three times. She was left so frightened by the incidents that she reported them to the Community Security Trust.
In the first approach, the man arrived at her house, banged on the door and shouted her name.
“I could hear him talking to someone in Hebrew and then he went away again,” she said.
“The next day the phone rang and the same voice came on. He said: ‘I came to speak to you yesterday.’ He seemed to know things about me, including that I was divorced.”
The woman was told the money would be used to “save young boys from getting into trouble”, but doubting the man’s credentials she refused to make a donation.
“He was very aggressive and I asked him to leave me alone and stop harassing me, but a week later he rang again and asked to see me.”
A few days later she received a call from “Irene”, saying: “It is nearly Pesach and I need tzedakah (charity) or else I’ll be evicted.”
Last month, a woman in Bromley, Kent, described how she and her husband received an almost identical approach from the same man.
“A chap came on the phone with an Israeli accent and said he wanted to visit us that evening.
“He did not give a very clear explanation, but said he was in Golders Green and knew our home address,” said the woman.
“He wanted money for charity and called it a ‘beautiful Israeli custom’. It felt like one of those Nigerian scams.”
When contacted by the JC on the mobile phone number he left with the victims, “Yuval” said: “I’m in Israel now, I’m not in England. I cannot talk to you, it costs too much.
“I cannot give you any directions [sic] because I’m not in England. Someone has mistaken you. I did not collect any money.” He then hung up.
Mark Gardner, CST communications director, said: “It is a sad fact that occasionally people try to take advantage of our charitable goodwill.
“If people have suspicions about collectors then they should request details of the charity and defer payment until satisfied that it is genuine.”
UJIA chief executive Douglas Krikler said: “I must absolutely reassure the community that this is in no way connected to UJIA. I would urge people to give to a clear, recognised and registered charity.
“Donations can be made to UJIA with complete peace of mind that they will be looked after and spent well.”
A KKL spokesman said: “Our fundraising efforts and those of our parent charity are always pre-planned and carried out by appeal in writing, by telephone, or by the hosting of events.
“It is sad that the confidence of the community to donate freely has been damaged by this unscrupulous individual who brings our organisation and other charities into disrepute.”