Israel’s security agency Shin Bet has uncovered an alleged plot by Iranian intelligence to lure Israeli academics and former defense officials to travel abroad in order to kidnap them.

The agency said on Thursday that Iranians contacted the Israelis while posing as academics, journalists, business people and philanthropists, using spoofed emails with the identities of real people living overseas who were unaware their names were being used.

The Iranian operatives used the stolen identities and relevant cover stories in an attempt to gather intelligence about Israelis and to invite them to locations abroad -- some under the guise of a conference -- in order to abduct or harm them.

“It is a well-known method of operation of the Iranian intelligence and security bodies, headed by the Intelligence Organization of the Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force and the Ministry of Intelligence,” the Shin Bet said.

In one case disclosed by the agency, Iranians invited the potential victims to a conference in Europe via email addresses similar to official institutes and with their logos, and in another case, the operatives pretended to be the assistant of a Russian billionaire, named “Nikolai” to contact Israelis of Russian descent and convince them to meet abroad.

Earlier this month, the Shin Bet said it uncovered an operation in which the Iranians had created a fake Facebook profile under the name of Sara Puppi, pretending to be a young Jewish girl with connections and business ties in Israel.

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