CANTON, Ohio- The American Red Cross in Stark County is warning about someone impersonating a Red Cross volunteer at fire scenes. Red Cross officials said a man showed up at two fire scenes in the Canton area in the same week, claiming to be a volunteer with the organization.
The Red Cross was never called to the fires by firefighters and only found out about the imposter when victims called to follow up. The first fire happened December 19 at a home on 9th Street Northwest, and the second took place on Christmas Eve at a home on 13th Street Southwest.
The victims, who were displaced by the fires, reported the man claimed he could provide vouchers for food and clothing. The Stark County Red Cross doesn't give vouchers, but instead provides assistance cards to those in immediate need. It’s unclear what motivated the impersonator, but Stark County Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Barb Slator said it could be some sort of prank.
“What a shame,” Slator said. “We could’ve been there. We could’ve helped. We weren’t called, and why would someone pose as a Red Cross volunteer offering help when he had no way of giving it?”
The impersonator, described as being in his twenties with dark hair and a slender build, did not have a Red Cross ID badge. Slator said legitimate Red Cross volunteers will always show up in a marked Red Cross vehicle, will wear a vest and carry an official ID badge.
“When people pretend to be a volunteer for the Red Cross, it's misleading,” Slator said. “Unfortunately, the Red Cross name is the one that gets the black mark.”
The Red Cross contacted Canton police, but detectives said unlike impersonating a police officer or firefighter, this likely does not constitute a crime, as the person did not collect personal information.
Red Cross officials want people to keep an eye out.