UPDATE: Delaware County Police arrested the alleged scammer, Kyndra Combs, on Friday, March 7. Combs is now in the Delaware County Jail facing theft charges.
Inside Taranto's Pizzeria in Lewis Center, the thank you cards on the wall and donation jug on the counter show that owner Debbie Taranto is always willing to help when she can.
Detectives say that's what her son was trying to do when he gave cash to a crook.
“That was probably the equivalent of 4 to 5 orders, pizzas wiped out like that,” says Taranto.
She said the woman asked for $50 for Helping Hands in exchange for the donation. In addition, she said the business would get some free advertising in the Columbus Dispatch.
“She actually had everything written down on notebook paper, which should have been clue number one,”
Taranto says when her son told her the story, she knew it was a scam and called law enforcement and detectives called Helping Hands.
Erin Nealy says she was disgusted. She is one of the executive directors of Helping Hands. It is an organization that provides schooling and therapy for children with special needs.
“We are working so hard to provide scholarships for our students to attend helping hands and that potentially someone is out there that could be going to a good cause is really disheartening,” Nealy says.
Delaware County detectives say the woman they are looking for is Kyndra Combs. She's accused of hitting up two more businesses in Grove City. In those cases, she also said she was with Helping Hands.
Nealy says that is not the way her organization operates.
And that is something Debbie Taranto says she knew and hopefully her son now does too.
“The fact that it was only $50, it really was a great lesson.”
Meantime, the head of security at the Columbus Dispatch tells 10TV he believes the same woman has been pulling off this scam since 2011.
Here are some tips to avoid scams:
Helping Hands Center for Special Needs
- No door-to-door solicitation
- Does not require cash on the spot
- Donors are able to give with cash, check or through the organization's PayPal account
- The organization does solicit donation from businesses
The Columbus Dispatch
- All sales representatives carry company identification
- All sales representatives have company-issued business cards
- Sales representatives do not collect money for charities