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Donors warned to avoid scams

OREM — A local chapter of the American Red Cross cautions those who donate money to relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina to be careful about where they drop their dollars.

"Anytime there's a situation where money is being collected for an organization or a disaster, there are going to be people who take advantage of that," said Katrina Pope, director of emergency services for the Mountain Valley chapter of the American Red Cross. "(Stealing) does happen, but it's very difficult to regulate or monitor that. Those who donate should be careful who they donate to."

Shoppers at the Wal-Mart in Orem on Monday afternoon were greeted by a woman in the parking lot who said she was collecting money for the hurricane victims.

According to police, she was wearing a white shirt with "Red Cross" written in lip stick and had already gathered more than $80.

When the Wal-Mart manager approached her and expressed doubts that she had ties to the relief organization, she took off running, leaving the money behind.

"People should be careful," said Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards. "They want to be helpful, they want to do what they can, but . . . giving (money) to a woman standing outside a store? That's probably not the wisest (idea)."

Those interested in volunteering or raising funds for the Red Cross chapter in Utah County must come into the office, fill out a project request form and wait for approval from the office. That can usually be done in a few hours and ensures that the money is tracked and goes directly to where it's needed, officials said.

"I think that anytime something like that happens and people find out, their trust in the Red Cross goes down," Pope said. "We do all we can at the chapter to help facilitate those who are actually raising money for the Red Cross. We do all we can to prevent (fraud), but we can't monitor everybody."

Those interested in donating should donate directly to the Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW, or visit

The local chapter can be reached at 801-373-8580.