In the past few months, Israeli Internet surfers have been passing around an e-mail that calls for donations to help Oren Almog, a 12-year-old boy who suffered eye injuries in the Maxim restaurant bombing. The moving message included a Bank Hapoalim account and branch number to which money could be sent.
But it's a scam. The e-mail used an original message pleading for donations to fund surgery for Almog, but someone changed the real bank account and branch number.
One surfer who sent money to the bogus account says she will complaint to the police and Bank Hapoalim said it would cooperate with any investigation. Sources close to the Almogs say the family is "shocked" by the affair.
Oren Almog was injured in the Maxim restaurant terror attack on a Saturday morning last October. He was at the restaurant with his grandparents, mother, brother, uncle and cousin and the suicide bomber wiped out almost the entire family.
Grandfather Ze'ev Almog, a former director of the Israel Navy officers school in Acre, and his wife, Ruth, were killed. So were Oren's uncle, Moshe, 43, his cousin, Assaf Stier, 10, and his younger brother, Tomer, 7. His mother, Orly, was injured and hospitalized. Oren was blinded in the left eye and his family began a race against time to save his right eye by surgery in the United States.
The family turned to the public for assistance, asking for donations to be transferred to a special account at a Bank Hapoalim branch - number 584, in Haifa. The money was to paid into account number 123450, under the name of Almog Oren - Donations. The account details were published in all the media outlets, and a chain e-mail calling for donations was also sent out.
The e-mail was an emotional plea for help, for people to "please read this through to the end even though you are busy," and it included the bank account details for donations. A few days after the terrorist attack, the Health Ministry announced that the state would bear the cost of the surgery in the United States, and from that moment on, there was no longer any need for donations.
But it appears there is no limit to some people's shameful acts. A few days ago, Tzofit Yiluz forwarded an email she had received to Hanan Cohen, whose Web site - http://www.info.org.il/irrelevant/ - among other things, exposes rumors and false announcements sent by email.
The originators of the false email used the same moving approach sent out to surfers by the Almog family, changing only the bank account details - the Haifa branch was replaced by one in Herzliya, and the account number was changed.
"When I received the first message, the real one, I donated money," Yiluz says. "About a month and a half ago, I received another message, and I didn't remember that I had already donated. I went to my bank Web site and made a transfer."
Yiluz became suspicious when, after the transaction, the name of the beneficiary's account appeared and she didn't associate it with the Almog family. When she approached the Herzliya bank to check the account, the bank denied her any information, except to say the account was not one for donations. Her demand to be reimbursed was at first rejected, but her account has recently been credited with the sum.
Bank Hapoalim says it is powerless to keep track of the activities of its customers, but Yiluz has picked up the gauntlet and says she is ready to file a complaint. She hopes this will enable details of the owner of the bogus donations account to be exposed.
Partial sight restored
Oren Almog had an operation at a medical center in Alabama, where doctors managed to partially restore sight in his right eye in a complicated nine-hour procedure.
The doctors said that rehabilitation, Oren will be able to orientate himself in his surroundings, see large objects and distinguish colors, but will not be able to focus on small particulars.
The surgeons replaced Oren's damaged cornea with an artificial one, but it emerged that the retina had also been damaged and had become detached. In a lengthy procedure, the doctors managed to put the retina back in place and restore the internal eye pressure.