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Home --> Fraud Squad --> Identity Theft --> Red Cross Scam

Red Cross Scam

Scam:   Identity theft scammers pretending to be Red Cross representatives target military families.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2007]

I have received this e-mail twice. Not sure how true this is. But it would be very helpful since my husband is serving in Iraq at the moment. Here it is :



On Friday evening, a spouse received a suspicious telephone call that appears to be a scam targeting military personnel/families. The caller (young-sounding, American accent) identified herself as a representative from the Red Cross. The caller stated the spouse's husband (not identified by name) was hurt while on duty in Iraq and was med-evac'd to a hospital in Germany. The caller stated they couldn't start treatment until paperwork was accomplished, and that in order to start the paperwork they needed the spouse to verify her husband's social security number and date of birth. The spouse was quick to catch on, particularly as her husband was there so she did not provide any information.

Please know that American Red Cross representatives typically do not contact military members/dependents directly and almost always go through the Commander or First Sergeant channels. Be careful not to give out any personal information over the phone if contacted by unknown/unverified individuals, to include confirmation that your spouse is deployed. I certainly hope that none of you ever receive such an insensitive call, particularly at a time like this.

Origins:   Although many people have now become familiar enough with identity theft scams that they are properly wary of divulging sensitive personal or financial information to strangers, even the most cautious among us may let their guards down
when suddenly thrust into a stressful or disturbing situation. That's the premise behind the above-referenced scam, in which identity thieves pretending to be Red Cross representatives contact the families of military personnel and claim that a relative has been hurt and additional personal information is needed before medical treatment can begin. A common emotional reaction from the recipient of such a phone call is for him or her to simply blurt out the requested information in order to ensure that an injured loved one is taken care of as quickly as possible, without pausing to consider or question the legitimacy of the person making the request.

We don't know how prevalent this scam really is (since all we've seen so far are anecdotal warnings, not any first-hand accounts from people who were actual victims or targets of scammers operating in this manner), but since the Red Cross has taken it seriously enough to issue a cautionary bulletin about it, we're passing it along here.

As the Red Cross notes, the type of phone call described in this warning is not one that legitimate representatives of that organization would ordinarily make under any circumstances:
The American Red Cross representatives typically do not contact military members/dependents directly and almost always go through a commander or first sergeant channels. Military family members are urged not to give out any personal information over the phone if contacted by unknown/unverified individuals, [including] confirmation that your spouse is deployed.

In addition, American Red Cross representatives will contact military members/dependents directly only in response to an emergency message initiated by your family. The Red Cross does not report any type of casualty information to family members. The Department of Defense will contact families directly if their military member has been injured. Should any military family member receive such a call, they are urged to report it to their local Family Readiness Group or Military Personnel Flight.
Last updated:   4 June 2007

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  Sources Sources:
    Medina, Jose L.   "Scam Targets Military Families."
    Las Cruces Sun-News.   4 June 2007.