Con artists have taken note: New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jews make fairly easy targets. Just slap on a kippah, a dark suit and have a sob story at the ready.
Approach the target, preferably on Friday afternoon, close to Shabbat. Tell your story about the car that was towed to the pound. The wallet with the credit cards and IDs that is in said car. The wife who is due with twins any minute now, and is tending to little children back home.
The heartstrings-tugging scam has claimed at least two victims who told the Forward they were scammed by the flim-flam artist who used a remarkably similar story in recent months. Cell phone photos indicate the scam artist is the same person. Other victims have come forward on social media sites, but are apparently too embarrassed to tell their stories publicly.
One victim eventually reported the scam to New York City police, but he said officers at the 66th precinct in Brooklyn refused to file a report, citing the insignificant amount. A police spokesman said the NYPD does not know of any pattern of Orthodox men preying on other Orthodox men in the city.
“We cannot comment on this particular incident,” said Sgt. Brendan Ryan, adding that the NYPD does not categorize crimes by religious affiliation of the suspect. “We also don’t break down crimes to that degree.”
Even the victims emphasize that they do not know for sure whether the suspected scam artist is really Orthodox, or just familiar with the habits of frum Jews.
Whether the NYPD tracks the scam or not, it feels like a real crime to Shulem, who asked that his last name not be used.
The 28-year-old Hasidic man from Brooklyn says he was conned one Friday afternoon in the fall as he rode the No. 2 train. Shulem visited a sick friend at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and was rushing to get home to his wife and three children in time for Shabbat at 6 pm, when a short, stout man approached him. The man looked like your average Modern Orthodox New Yorker, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and a small yarmulke over his slicked back hair.