EDITORIAL: Give freely — but don’t be fooled

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sympathy — it’s a natural and healthy reaction for any of us to have when we see images of suffering either in person or from afar.

But when the images of Hurricane Harvey are from 1,000 miles away, what are we supposed to do? There must be a way to help.

It turns out there is a way to help by giving to the American Red Cross, and it’s a very simple process.

“The safest way and easiest way to give to the Red Cross is to text HARVEY to 90999 and $10 is just added to your bill,” local Red Cross chapter representative Lori Lucas said. “If you want to give more you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit redcross.org.”

Giving to the Red Cross — or some other approved charity — is about the beginning and end of it, short of mobilizing and heading to Houston for yourself.

Unfortunately, the worst of times can have a way of bringing out the worst in people. Lucas and Putnam County Sheriff Scott Stockton have spent part of this week warning local residents of possible scams related to Hurricane Harvey.

“As a result of these natural catastrophies and people’s emotions and willingness to help, they become victims of predators,” Stockton said.

Such predators, looking for cash or credit card numbers, can walk away with money that well-meaning donors think will end up helping victims.

The scams take the known forms of fraud, either phone calls or door-to-door solicitations. Either way, residents should keep in mind that the only current way of giving to the American Red Cross is by initiating the contact themselves.

“We don’t have any door-to-door program right now,” Lucas said.

Even so, Stockton warns to be wary of even those who look official.

“The Red Cross does not solicit door-to-door but anyone could have smocks or business cards made and make it look legitimate,” Stockton said. “If people see someone representing themselves as the Red Cross, call the sheriff’s department.”

Putnam County Dispatch can be reached at 653-5115.