Area Red Cross organizations are warning of a potential telephone scam targeting military families in which a caller says that a servicemember has been injured and personal information is needed before treatment can begin.
The caller contacts a military spouse and identifies herself as a representative of the Red Cross and says that the person's spouse was hurt while on duty in Iraq and sent to a hospital in Germany, according to the alert.
The caller then asks for a Social Security number and date of birth.
The alert originated from the Piedmont Chapter of the American Red Cross in Spartanburg after Pat Elliott, director of emergency community services, learned of the scam from a military spouse who saw an e-mail warning posted on MySpace.com.
Elliott forwarded the post to the Red Cross National Headquarters, leading to the scam alert.
"We have no way of confirming 100 percent whether it happened anywhere," Elliott said. "Just in case, the Red Cross put out a memo."
The American Red Cross can be vital in communications between families and members of the military, but they never would call and ask for such personal information, officials said.
Louise Welch of the Carolina Lowcountry Chapter said the organization is the first point of contact between servicemembers and their families, handling 1,400 cases a year. Though they might help send a service member home for a funeral or assist a family member, the Red Cross would never notify family members of injuries. That's something the Department of Defense would do.
So far there is are no confirmed reports that anyone has fallen victim to the scam. And locally no one has reported receiving a phone call.
According to Snopes.com, a popular Web site that discusses urban legends, the scam warning first appeared in e-mails in May and has unknown origins.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 745-5860.