An American family has warned that British Jews could unknowingly be the victims of an international fraud operation.
Deborah Stutman-Brickey and her husband David, of Columbus, Ohio, were forced to change their bank account after being targeted while attempting to let a student flat near Ohio State University.
Mrs Stutman-Brickey, a chemical engineer, said: “A very elaborate scheme of fraudulent cheques and getting bank routing numbers was launched, causing us many headaches.”
After advertising the property in the university newspaper and online, the family were emailed by a woman claiming to be a 25-year-old Jewish student from north west London.
Other correspondence was sent from the student’s father.
It is not known whether the pair are complicit in the alleged fraud or are themselves victims of identity theft. Mrs Stutman-Brickey has provided the JC with their names. We are not identifying them for legal reasons.
The Stutman-Brickey family had asked for one month’s rent as a deposit, and another month’s rent in advance of the signing of the lease and the student moving in on June 1.
Instead, they received a cheque for $2,100 more than agreed.
Later they were sent a note claiming the cheque had been sent incorrectly and asking for the excess to be returned.
But Mrs Stutman-Brickey became suspicious after spotting inaccuracies in the emails, including the student asking for the money to be returned to two different postal addresses in the Regent’s Park area of London.
She contacted the FBI and was told that the bank account in North Carolina from which the cheque had been sent had already been highlighted as suspicious by bureau investigators.
“I am concerned that real people may become more enmeshed with the scam and suffer from identity theft,” said Mrs Stutman-Brickey.
“I am thankful to be out of the mess, but I think people should be warned about identity theft. Even if you don’t get burned by the fraudulent cheques, or bad routing numbers, somehow your name might be involved, and cause big problems in the future.
“Without checking your credit report periodically, you may never know until it is too late.”