“I think it may be a scam. Please do not give out personal information,” wrote a group member.
Another responded: “Are you sure these messages are from them for real?”
Lisa Kidd’s first reaction echoed the skepticism.
“I almost deleted it,” she said.
The American Red Cross had contacted her before — by phone. But this was a text coming out of the blue at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Kidd apprehensively clicked on the link displayed in the text. Her Red Cross case number appeared, as well as prompts leading through a few questions about her unmet needs.
“It never asked me anything like my Social Security number, so that’s when I began to feel a little more safe with it,” she said.
As Kidd continued through the prompts on the text message, she came across multiple choice security questions based on information she’d previously provided the Red Cross.
After that, the app wanted to know how she wanted to receive the funds: through her PayPal account, debit card account or pick up in person at a Walmart location.
“I didn’t want to give them my debit or PayPal, so I said I would just pick it up at Walmart,” Kidd said.
Registration closes soon
The $850 per household now being distributed was donated toward the Dayton area tornado response and not spent during the initial disaster phase, Salkowski said.
“The whole idea is that we want to make sure we honor donor intent, and if people give to a specific disaster, that money actually makes it to those people impacted,” she said. “Now we’re going back and looking at a pool of money, and we’re giving it out again.”
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Individuals and households not previously assisted but whose property was destroyed or had major damage can can still receive the cash assistance by registering with the Red Cross. They will need to contact the Dayton office at 937-222-6711 and will be asked to provide documentation attesting to damage.
Entry to the program closes on Feb. 6. If people already entered into the Red Cross database inadvertently deleted the texts or emails, they should call the Dayton Red Cross office to get back on track for the cash assistance, Salkowski said.
‘That never leaves you’
The house Kidd lives in with her 9-year-old son, like others on the Trotwood street not far from Hara Arena, were damaged in the most destructive tornado to hit the region Memorial Day night.
They ran to the bathroom and jumped in the tub.
“The sound of things breaking and rumbling is something that never leaves you,” she said. “Whenever we have heavy wind advisory, we both get anxiety. You think it’s going to happen again.”
Unlike houses on either side of them, their home was damaged but remained habitable. Their landlord, however, has yet to make repairs, which jeopardizes their safety now, Kidd said.
They are living with broken windows and a front door held together with duct tape and under a damaged roof and cracked ceiling “that looks like it could give any day,” Kidd said.
“I’m dealing with that right now. I’m trying to relocate,” she said. “It’s a really sad situation because we’ve been through enough, and we’re still going through it.”
Kidd said she will have to leave Trotwood and the home she’s been in nearly 13 years, move from the school district her son loves, and live farther away from her mother, now only five minutes away at Friendship Village. The move will require a new deposit and will undoubtedly come with a higher rent payment than the $650 a month she pays now.
After selecting the payment option on Friday night, Kidd drove immediately to a nearby Walmart.
“The curiosity was killing me,” she said. “I had to go right then.”
MORE: Thousands more denied than awarded FEMA grants
Once at the Walmart, Kidd held her phone screen toward a cashier who punched in a code contained on a message. Kidd simply signed a slip and had cash in hand.
“OK, that was real. But up until then I had no idea because there was nothing sent out, there was nothing on the news,” she said. “That $850 has been a huge blessing to me. It was right on time and very much needed.”