MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. — When disasters like Spokane County's wildland fires strike, they're often followed by scammers.
The Red Cross is now warning victims of the Gray Fire and Oregon Road fire to look out for imposters posing as damage assessors to gain access to homes.
With many homes destroyed or damaged in Medical Lake, the agency is now taking stock of the damage. Real Red Cross damage assessors are out looking at properties, but so are these opportunistic imposters.
“We approached a homeowner who said the Red Cross had already been there," said Lacie Clark, executive director of the Greater Inland NW Chapter for the Red Cross.
Clark says this scammer went inside the victims' home; that's something the real Red Cross will never do.
“Most of the time we don’t even need to go on the property," Clark said. "If we can see the home from the road, that’s where we stay.”
The agency will also not ask many questions during these assessments, another red flag to look out for.
Clark says she's not sure why the fake helpers are asking to go into homes, but there have been criminals looting fire-ravaged areas.
Here's what you can look out for the spot a Red Cross impersonator:
- Real Red Cross staff or volunteers will always be easy to spot, with Red Cross-branded vests and cars. The cars will sometimes have window decals.
- Most Red Cross volunteers/employees will wear identification badges.
- They'll never work alone.
“All of our disaster assessment teams will be in twos or threes," Clark said.
You can always ask to see those ID badges or call the Red Cross to confirm if you're suspicious of any activity. Clark says similar imposters have been spotted around the Oregon Road fire area.
You can also call law enforcement if you aren't comfortable or believe someone is a scammer.
“Police are aware of it, they’re watching for them," Clark said.
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