Help Needed

A friend and colleage has just been the victim of identity theft. I would appreciate any leads on how to address his problem – not just because he is my friend, but because this is most likely an assault on the Beis Din process.

My friend is a dayan, and like other dayanim, has his share of people who have not liked his decisions. A short while ago, someone set up a Yahoo email account which bore his name, and widely broadcast a message as if from him. It declared that the beis din of which he is a member has been hit by multiple civil suits. As a result, he has resigned from that beis din, and will no longer answer halachic inquiries.

The damage from this email could be extensive, and should not be seen as a prank. If allowed to go unchallenged, it will likely be copied by others who are disgruntled with their din Torah – or their rabbi.

Please respond if you have real, hand-on solutions


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15 Responses

  1. TK says:

    Unfortunately, this kind of theft is very hard to prevent, as there’s little barrier to entry for someone to impersonate someone online. Anyone could create an account on just about any website with a name of “Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein” and masquerade as you, unfortunately.

    In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to contact the company hosting the email account (Yahoo), lay out your case before them, and ask that the email account be closed on account of possible identity theft and irreparable damage to business.

    (As I work in an internet-related field, one of the problems my colleagues and I are trying to solve is exactly this. OpenID was designed to mitigate the problem in some ways, but due to its nature, still falls short of the equivalent of an internet “driver’s license.” My condolences to the Rabbi, it should be that the lashon hora should end and be completely negated.)

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      That was the very first thing he did. Yahoo is reputed, however, to act slowly – and sometimes not at all. He also got in touch with the FBI Internet Crimes unit

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Via a website or other means, can he now circulate his corrective statement to the same public that received the fraudulent statement? Could Yahoo at least help him do this quickly?

  3. TK says:

    Is the scope of damage known? Was there any theft of email addresses (of target recepients) involved? Or were they simply gathered from the community?

    If there was a breach in security, I would be happy to help prevent it from happening in the future, Rabbi.

  4. mrmoose says:

    the beis din should launch a preemptive PR blitz explaining the situation. Depending on the area he lives in, adds should be taken in local papers as well as on frum web sites, announcements should be made from the pulpits in shuls and signs should be hung.

  5. Yossie Abramson says:

    He can sue John Doe at Yahoo for defamation and then Yahoo would be required to give the IP address of the perp. The ISP would then have to give the ID of the IP. Not sure if all this is worth it, but if serious defamation occurred then it might be something to look into.

  6. David F. says:

    Hiring a personal investigator with experience in technology crimes is the way to go. Once they are able to track down the perpetrator, put him through the wringer in a meaningful way to ensure that this never happens again.

  7. E. Fink says:

    He can sue and press criminal charges. Dr. Lawrence Shiffman was a victim of a very similar attack and his attacker was convicted.

    He should also enlist the help of

  8. Baal Habos says:

    In order to avoid issues of of Mesira, he needs to first speak with his Rav to determine if there really was financial damage. If there was then he needs to go to Rabbonim to help determine who the the culprit is and then to bring that culprit to Bais Din. Under no circumstances can he use his own judgement on this and he certainly cannot go to secular law enforement.

  9. Harry Maryles says:

    Perhaps a public announcement by the Beis Din itself… or better yet a combined statement by all reputable Batei Din publicized on all public media incluidng blogs, websites news media etc. saying that any e-mail that is not sent from one of the official e-mail accounts listed on their websites should be considered fraudulent.

  10. Samuel Trepper says:

    Yossie Abramson is correct. That is the only avenue you have. Without a lawsuit against John Doe, no one at Yahoo or the Internet Provider of the perpetrator will do anything for you. In fact, legally they are not allowed to provide you any information. Nor will they close the account being used, in all likelihood.

    The other question is, once you find out who is behind this (using Yossie Abramson’s instructions above), what will you do? Legally you can sue him for defamation and identity theft. Is that what you want to do?

  11. Baruch Cohen says:

    Contact the internet provider and file a claim for the abuse and identity theft. A subpoena will eventually produce the identity of the identity thief. It’s amazing to me that some people have nothing better to do with their lives than create false realities and lies about Rabbonim. Especially the Rabbonim who take upon themselves to be Dayanim and
    pasken Shaylos for us. They do us an incredible service, oftentimes at the risk of upsetting the losing side.

  12. Ahron says:

    The beis din can establish a website and e-mail domain, which domain will be the only source for authentic communications from the beis din. All public e-mail communications and announcements from the beis din can be simul-posted on the website for easier verification by the public.

    The dayanim can also be given accounts on the beis din domain, with a standard established that any e-mail communications to/from dayanim must go through those accounts. Alternatively each dayan can establish a single e-mail account on some other domain that only he can access, and make it publicly known that the dayan will exclusively use that particular account for communications.

    The above measures will reduce the likelihood and impact of similar attempted frauds in the future. There are also more ‘granular’ computer security practices that the users of the above domain should follow.

    In this particular case, I strongly endorse the proposal to engage a local or state police department with competency in electronic fraud and computer crimes. There seem to be several criminal and civil violations that have taken place.

    Living post-etz ha’daas, measures against malice and chicanery are never final, but need constant updating and adaptation…

  13. Samuel Trepper says:

    In order to subpoena Yahoo or the internet provider to provide identifying information, you need to request a court order for the subpoena. Outside of a law enforcement agency, a private citizen must file a lawsuit against “John Doe” before a Judge will issue a subpoena to an e-mail or internet provider ordering identifying information be provided.

  14. cvmay says:

    Fortunately or unfortunately I have no advise to give. Several of the mentioned procedures from commentators should be put into action and a definite lawsuit filed.

    The underlying problem is much deeper,,,what to do with individuals, families, groups, organizations, mosdos, etc. who feel they have been wronged and are seeking revenge against those who harmed them? Physical damage of people & property, threats against family or friends, destruction of businesses and clients are a few of the favorite tools of revenge. Just look at the daily demos against elementary school aged girls in Bet Shemesh, since a parcel of land was not allocated to a desired group & hot, passionate revenge is the newest mode of retribution.

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