Thrusday, December 31, 1998

Donation scam pretends to be for Red Cross




BY JANET C. WETZEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — During the holiday season, people often are quick to open their hearts and pocketbooks, and scam artists are standing by waiting to take advantage.

        A Middletown senior citizen learned that firsthand this week, when someone called asking him to mail out letters to local residents to get donations for the American Red Cross — in Akron. He was even asked to buy stamps for the letters to be sent to him.

        He got suspicious and called the American Red Cross, Middletown Chapter, said Dana Sennet, executive director.

        “It's just a clever, fraudulent scheme,” Mrs. Sennet said. “These people are getting better and better at their schemes. We sometimes have a mail campaign, but the mon ey is sent directly to this office. We only solicit in Middletown, Monroe and Trenton.”

        The scam artist tells those she calls that she'll send them 18 letters asking for donations to the Akron Red Cross. They are told to mail the letters to locals, who are to send donations to the Akron address.

        There is no Akron Red Cross Chapter. It's the Summit County Red Cross, which does not solicit outside that area, Mrs. Sennet said.

        The man who notified the Red Cross of the scheme did not want to be identified, but said when the letters come he will turn them over to that office. They will be sent to the national office's legal department, Mrs. Sennet said.

        While only one person has contacted the local chapter, “There's no question since he was called, numerous others in the area have been contacted, too,” she said. “Probably some just hang up on the caller; others will agree to mail the letters. They think it's the holiday season and they want to help. If these people send out 10 packets of letters and just a few are returned with donations, it's worth it to them. It's costing them nothing.”

        Kenneth Snyder, assistant manager of the American Red Cross Hamilton Area Chapter, said he's had no reports of the scam there.

        “People all over the community should be aware this is happening,” he said. “It may spread.”

        Middletown and Monroe police said they have had no reports about such scams.

        “The biggest thing is to be aware that it is a fraud,” Mrs. Sennet said. “If you want to help, we'd be happy to get a donation. But know where you're sending your money.”

       



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