Scams target pockets of generous donors

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 26, 2001

Staff Writer

Some who are trying to give out of the goodness of their hearts are getting hit in the pocket.

Americans’ desire to help those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States are being hindered by some less-than-honest collections.

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"We know there are some funds coming off that (disaster)," said Jane Thrash, community development specialist for the Pike County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

She has been made aware of an email campaign eluding to collections being made for the United Way and Red Cross. Some ask for the individual to respond with a credit card number.

"If they get that email, they do not need to respond in this area," Thrash said. "We have not sent out any email asking for contributions."

Thrash also pointed out, the local United Way, which does provide funding to the Red Cross, does not collect donations by credit card.

"If they want to contribute, they can do so directly through the Pike County United Way," said Thrash, who serves as secretary/treasurer of the local United Way board.

Because of the overwhelming contributions going into New York, President George W. Bush has asked citizens to contribute to their local agencies.

Pike County residents can do so by sending checks or money orders to: Pike County United Way, P.O. Box 204, Troy, AL 36081. Individuals can designate contributions to go into the WTC relief fund, if they so choose.

"We would prefer people to send donations to the local United Way and designate it for the relief fund, if they want to," Thrash said. "They need to steer away from any scams."

Thus far, the Red Cross had paid out an average of $15,000 to victims of the World Trade Center attack. Approximately 1,000 families have received payments.

The ARC’s national headquarters has been made aware of false websites and email campaigns soliciting donations. After being made aware of such activities, the Red Cross issued a statement those using the ARC name and emblem without written permission can be prosecuted.

Sections 706 and 917 both deal with this particular issue and state "Whoever wears or displays the sign of the Red Cross or any insignia colored in imitation thereof for the fraudulent purpose of inducing the belief that he is a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross" can be fined

not more than $500 or jailed up to a year, or both.

But, every website is not fraudulent and the Red Cross has actually entered into partnerships with, AOL Time Warner,, Wells Fargo Bank and Yahoo! Inc.

Some national corporations, such as Burger King and Dollar General, are also collecting donations to help with the WTC relief fund.

"We want to assure anyone who gives money locally, the money will be spent on the local level," Thrash said.

In addition to the Red Cross, the Pike County United Way provides funding to: Alabama Easter Seals Society, Boy Scouts, East Central Mental Health-Mental Retardation, Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), House of Ruth, Pike County Christmas Program, Troy Charity League, Salvation Army, Pike County YMCA, Colley Senior Complex and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pike County.

Anyone with concerns or questions about the legitimacy of a solicitation can contact Thrash at the local Red Cross office, 566-0632; home, 735-2004; pager, 519-4133 or cell phone, 464-7011.