Devorah Goldburg, of the American Red Cross, said a female caller, who is young-sounding and speaks in an American dialect, calls a military spouse and identifies herself as a representative of the Red Cross.
The caller states the spouse's husband, not identified by name, was hurt while on duty in Iraq and was med-evacuated to a hospital in Germany. The caller tells the spouse they can't start treatment until paperwork is accomplished, and in order to start the paperwork, they need the spouse to verify her husband's Social Security number and date of birth.
“Legitimate military personnel will never ask for a Social Security number or a date of birth, because they already have that information,” said Terry Duncan, Disaster Services Director for the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. “They might ask for an address to be sure they're talking to the right people, but they will not ask for a Social Security number or date of birth. But they will have to give that information to us, but they will know they are talking with the Red Cross because they called us.”
Goldburg said Red Cross representatives typically do not contact military members or dependents directly, and almost always go through commander or first sergeant channels.
“If any calls come in from a military source, the spouse or family member should call the local Red Cross immediately,” Duncan said. “We have direct Internet access with San Diego, Calif., and they can confirm the information through the Armed Forces Emergency Services, and get back to us.”
Duncan said the scam has not been reported in the southern Ohio area, but has occurred in Columbus and other large cities.
“So we know that eventually it will work down this way,” he said.
Goldburg said it is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, for a person to falsely or fraudulently pretend to be a member of, or an agent for, the American National Red Cross for the purpose of soliciting, collecting, or receiving money or material.
In addition, American Red Cross representatives will contact military members and dependents directly only in response to an emergency message initiated by the family.
“The Red Cross does not report any type of casualty information to family members,” Goldburg said. “The Department of Defense will contact families directly if their military member has been injured.”
Active duty service members stationed in the United States and their immediate family members can call the Red Cross AFES for help 24 hours a day toll-free at (800) 951-5600.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.