SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s hard to turn down someone selling chocolate candy bars claiming to be raising money for children with autism.
A few people in Smyrna didn’t think twice and purchased several $1 candy bars using their debit cards.
The next day, though, several fraudulent charges appeared on their accounts.
Wendy Odom and Laura Castillo told News 2 they didn’t hesitate to purchase a few bars of candy from a man claiming to be raising money for children with autism.
“I didn’t think twice about it because I have been involved in giving to that before,” Odom said.
The man entered a Smyrna business with a box of World’s Finest Chocolate, telling the women they could pay with cash or debit card by using a card reader on his cell phone.
“Generally I don’t carry cash. A lot of us don’t do that these days, we depend on our debit cards, and he was able to process a transaction for us using the debit card,” Odom explained.
The next day, she said a few unauthorized charges appeared on her account.
“Not only did he process for the candy bars, he decided to take an all-out excursion down Google Play,” Odom said. “So about $150 later, that was what my donation to children with autism resulted in.”
Odom and her co-workers often donated money for autism and even participated in several fundraising events with a former co-worker.
That’s why they were so eager to help.
“I’m always like really soft when it comes to things like that, so you know I look it like an everyday kind of thing, so I donated the $5 wanting to be nice,” victim Laura Castillo said.
After Castillo checked her account, she said there were a number of fraudulent charges.
“I was over like $175, and yeah, that was real alarming when I saw it,” Castillo said.
The scammer also went to neighboring businesses with the same autism fundraising pitch.
“He had gone to the clinic next door, the doctor’s office behind us… he was actually making a lot of ground that day,” Odom said. “It’s really sad that someone going to come out and steal because I doubt very seriously any of that is going to autism.”
The victims also told News 2 after the man swiped their cards, he told them he would send a receipt to them later in the day. It was a red flag, but their cards had already been swiped.
The women’s banks are working with them to recoup the money they lost.
Smyrna police are investigating.
Police have posted a warning to Facebook, alerting residents to the scam.
The suspect is a white man, who is between 30 and 40-years old. He is around 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was last seen wearing a red baseball cap with “LSW” on it and a plaid jacket with a vest.
Anyone with information is urged to call Det. Allan Nabours at 615-459-6644.