Debunking Russian Fake. Phone Scammers from Ukraine Defraud Israelis of $30 Million

Denys Glushko - 20 November 2023 | 19:02

Due to the low level of trust in Russian media among the international community, Russian propagandists often imitate well-known media companies. For instance, we’ve already debunked fake videos with the logos of the British news agency Reuters and the American news company USA Today.

This time, Perevirka bot received requests to check a video by media company The Times of Israel about alleged phone scammers from Ukraine who defrauded Israelis of $30 million. Read our article to find out whether this is true.

What happened?

On November 4, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov posted a news story (archive) on his Telegram channel with a video from the allegedly Israeli media company The Times of Israel.

“Since October 8, Israeli residents have been receiving a lot of calls from ‘banks’ informing them that Hamas attacked the bank’s office, so they urgently need to provide their card details to ‘transfer money to a safe place’. During the investigation, it turned out that most of the fraudulent transactions were related to accounts in Ukrainian banks,” Volodymyr Solovyov commented on the video.

On November 4-5, the post was actively shared on pro-Russian Telegram channels (archive), VOBLYA, Otryad Kovpaka (archive), and Sheikh Tamir (archive).

As of November 6, the post had been viewed over 825,000 times in the Telegram channels we’ve mentioned alone.

During this time, the news was also shared by users of social networks X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and the Russian social network VKontakte.

The information was also disseminated in the Russian media, including Mriya (archive), Komsomolskaya Pravda (archive), ZOV Berdiansk (archive), and others.


In the upper right corner of the video is the logo of the Israeli media outlet, The Times of Israel.

The Times of Israel outlet was founded in 2012. The media has an official website and accounts on Facebook, Telegram, X (formerly Twitter), and a YouTube channel. All videos of the media company are posted on the YouTube channel and in the Video section on their website.

We checked all the official resources of The Times of Israel and did not find the relevant video. In addition, none of the media company’s official resources contain news about phone fraud involving people from Ukraine or using Ukrainian bank accounts.

The author of the video

The author of the video in the posts from Telegram channels is @EliKatzoff.

In October and November 2023, the media company’s resources published videos authored by Eli Katzoff (full name: Eliezer Katzoff).

The American documentary filmmaker and photographer Eli Katzoff is a member of the StormPort Productions video production team and has his own YouTube channel and Instagram page, which, among many other things, contains all the videos he created for The Times of Israel.

All videos he created for The Times of Israel credit the author as “A film by @elikatzoff.”

We want to draw your attention to a discrepancy in the captions. For example, at the end of the video, information about the rights to the video belonging to The Times of Israel and the director Eli Katzoff is displayed. This information is displayed in the form of a credit, “A film by @elikatzoff.”

At the same time, the video from the public domain contains a different message: “Video created by @EliKatzoff.”

The official pages of the director Eli Katzoff also lack information about the video.

Video analysis

The video has a size of 1080×1080, usually created for social media, as YouTube does not support this format. However, we did not find this video in any social media of The Times of Israel.

The video combines excerpts from various videos with animated English subtitles and background music. In the video, we find the following components:

  • video outside the Israeli bank Discount Bank;
  • and other images, such as footage of Israeli police officers, which have been present in the information space since at least 2017 (archive).

Official response

Gwara contacted American filmmaker Eliezer Katzoff directly to confirm or deny the authorship of the video distributed by Telegram channels.

The director responded that the video, supposedly distributed under his authorship, has nothing to do with him or The Times of Israel.

“No, it’s not made by me, Eli, and it’s not a real Times of Israel video. The examples you sent are fake news, we did not create this video in any way and have nothing to do with it. But I think we create good content if people try to deceive by using us. All the official videos we create are published on the Times of Israel website in the Video section,” Eliezer Katzoff said in a statement.

We also sent a similar request to the Times of Israel media. They denied affiliation with the video.

Conclusion: fake.

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