UPDATE: Chattanoogans have opened their hearts and wallets to the victims of the Woodmore bus crash, but CPD is now warning the community of a scammer taking advantage of the situation.

Sargent Rebecca Crites with the Chattanooga Police Department said at a time when emotions are still high, scammers are hitting a new low.

"They had a red bucket and they were collecting money for Woodmore Elementary School for the tragedy that occurred there with the bus and all the children,” Sgt. Crites said.

It happened at the TJ Maxx in Hixson, customers walking in were stopped at the door and handed over money to a fund they thought was going to the Woodmore families. However, Sgt. Crites said this is a hoax.

"This is a horrible scam for them to do over a tragedy Woodmore Elementary,” Sgt. Crites said.

It has some customers like Bonnie Marcus angry that someone would take from families who have already lost so much.

"It's just despicable, it's just despicable. That's just scummy people trying to steal. I mean really go get a job, work for your money. It’s just terrible to take from those families,” Marcus said.

CPD said they received two separate calls about the solicitations over the holiday weekend.
When they approached the suspect, he ran away.

"We see a van that actually pulled up that's a green kind of like a voyeur van older model and the door came open and the gentleman just jumped into it and took off,” Sgt. Crites said.

Police said they are reviewing surveillance footage and talking to witnesses. In the meantime, they said if you want to give financially to do your homework.

"They really need to do some research. Make some telephone calls, get online, check it out before you give any money to anybody that's questionable,” Marcus said.

Investigators ask anyone who has information or may have seen the scammer at Northgate Mall to contact police. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Chattanooga Police and Northgate Mall Security believe there is a man on mall property attempting to collect money for Woodmore Elementary and the victims in the Talley Road school bus crash. Officers are working to determine the credibility of his intentions and actions.

At various times throughout the weekend, primarily between noon and 6:00 p.m., this man has been seen in front of T J Maxx at the Northgate Mall. As police tried to approach him, he ran to a blue van and left the premises.

T J Maxx management and staff have been advised to call police when they seem him again. 

Description of solicitor:

Black male in his 20s to 30s

The Better Business Bureau is warning donors to be on the lookout for questionable solicitors and scammers in the wake of this tragedy. If you notice or identify someone that seems questionable contact Chattanooga Police immediately at 423-698-2525.

Monetary donations can be made to "The Woodmore Fund" payable to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga with "Woodmore" in the memo line. Checks can be dropped off or mailed to 630 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402. You can also text "Woodmore" to 91999 or call 2-1-1 (423-265-8000). Donations can be made online thru this link.