Be wary of calls offering wages

Published 9:19 pm Friday, November 9, 2012

The Red Cross of eastern North Carolina is warning potential volunteers of presumed scammers operating under the Red Cross banner.
Bill Brent, regional chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, said that a number of phone calls to their offices over the past few days indicate a group posing as the Red Cross is recruiting volunteers to travel to the Northeast, offering to pay the workers for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey.
The American Red Cross does not pay volunteers or spontaneous workers to help in times of disaster, Brent wrote in a press release, adding that Red Cross requires background checks and extensive disaster training for their volunteers. The speculation about what organization is asking volunteers to gather in public parking lots to load up in vans heading to the Northeast led officials to alert the Red Cross Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics.
“We don’t know a whole lot about the situation,” Brent said. “There just seems to be a lot of confusion and questions that the Red Cross is doing this.”
Brent said there is no indication as of yet that anything illegal has taken place, but they are taking steps to warn the community about the situation.
“This is not the first time we’ve dealt with a situation like this,” Brent said. “These types of things happen during disasters. We don’t know anything about this organization. It could be a perfectly legitimate group, but sometimes these things are not legitimate.”
Joy Branham, chief executive officer for coastal Carolina, said Red Cross of eastern North Carolina did send a team of disaster-response volunteers to a Hurricane Sandy-ravaged area last week, but not from a public parking lot in Snow Hill.
“We have 37 American Red Cross volunteers deployed to the New York, New Jersey, area,” Branham said. “They are serving the shelter managers, driving Red Cross trucks, and delivering meals and other items such as shovels, gloves, hand warmers.”
In addition to the volunteers, all five mobile feeding units based in eastern North Carolina have been sent north. Brent said another 40 volunteers will likely be heading up soon.
According to the press release, it is unlawful to pose as an American Red Cross staff member or volunteer without proper training and identification. Brent asks that the community contact the local Red Cross office if an organization offers payment and transportation to Hurricane Sandy relief sites.
“We want people to volunteer, we want them to help and continue to support the Red Cross,” Brent explained, but encouraged people to do a little research before signing on with any organization claiming to be involved in disaster relief and recovery.
Branham also encouraged people to donate to the Red Cross by mailing a check to their local chapter or donating through Texting “Red Cross” to the number 90999, donates $10 to American Red Cross, which will be added to your next cellphone bill.