False Calls on Casualties Upset American Marine Spouses

AP Wire Service

CAMP PENDLETON, California (AP) – Callers posing as American Red Cross workers have been reaching Marine spouses at this military base falsely informing them that their loved ones had been killed in the war with Iraq, a base spokesman said.

No arrests have been made, Cpt. Joshua Smith said.

Darren Irby, a Red Cross spokesman, said similar calls have been reported over the past week by families in California, Delaware, Michigan and Alabama.

“It’s hard to give a figure,” spokesman Darren Irby said. “More and more (complaints) come in every day.”

The callers are male and claim to be Red Cross representatives, Irby said. They tell family members that loved ones are dead, prisoners of war or missing in action, but no solicitation is made, Irby said.

Marine Corps Web sites posted a warning Wednesday about the prank calls. Officials at Camp Pendleton said they did not know how many calls had been made to military spouses, but issued a warning that all calls from purported Red Cross workers should be reported to authorities.

The Marine Corps contacts the family directly when a loved one is killed in action and does not utilize the Red Cross for notification, military officials said.

The calls have upset some families who have been watching war coverage on TV and eagerly awaiting word if their spouses are safe.

“We have a crisis response center where family members can call to received updated information and support,” base spokesman Cpt. Joshua Smith said. “I know of one family member that called after (getting a phony call). It took some time to calm her down.”