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Residents warned of Red Cross scam



The American Red Cross is now in Bolivar County bringing relief to flood victims, however there are many people taking advantage of their presence.

According to the Red Cross, it's been brought to their attention that people are posing as disaster case workers and soliciting funds from unknowing flood victims.

Melanie Riney, Disaster Case Work volunteer, said, "We have gotten reports that there are people impersonating Red Cross volunteers. With every natural disaster it brings out the good and the bad in everyone."

Riney said there are several ways to tell if someone is a Red Cross volunteer.

"We all have service vests and they all say disaster response. We all have name badges with our pictures and our full names and ID numbers. Those are on us every time we go out in the field. We do not solicit funds door to door and that's what we've been told is happening in the community. We're being told that people are asking for donations and then funds will be provided.

"The money we use is through citizens who have donated through the proper channels. If someone comes to you and says they're are Red Cross, then they ask for money, it’s a scam. Our fundraising is not handled that way. It never has been," said Riney.

Despite those trying to take advantage, there are actually over 200 Red Cross volunteers in the county offering assistance to those in need.

According to a press release, American Red Cross disaster responders from across Mississippi continue to provide relief and comfort to residents in multiple counties as they recover from floods.

Shelters remain open in Cohoama County, Perry County, Forest County, Washington County and Bolivar County.

More than 200 people sought refuge in the shelters since Thursday and many more are visiting every day for hot meals and information about what help is available.

Trained Red Cross health and mental health workers are providing services to people at the shelters, including emotional support.

“We are focused on getting help right now to the residents who need it,” said Ivy Williams, CEO of the Mississippi Region. “We’re only able to do that because of the generous support of our donors who faithfully support the Red Cross disaster relief efforts.”

Riney said she deployed to aid in the flood recovery.

"More than 200 volunteers are here currently from all over the country, as far as away as Alaska and Puerto Rico. We're here assessing damage and providing assistance to clients. We have a team that goes out and assesses damage in homes then the case workers do follow-ups," she said.

"We meet clients in the field and talk to them about the experience and property that has been damaged or lost. We check to make sure they haven't been injured Assistance we offer can amount to financial compensation, the amount varies and they have to meet certain criteria. We have replaced medications that have been lost in the flood," she said.

An order was issued by the American Red Cross requesting more volunteers.

Riley asked people to be patient with volunteers as they are not federally funded and are working on a volunteer basis.

She also added those living in areas declared a natural disaster can contact FEMA as well for additional assistance.

"The Red Cross is emergency help and is immediate but we are limited," she said.

For those needing assistance or for those wanting to help, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit www.redcross.org