The owners of Thomas Designer Jewellery in the Fraser Valley have disappointing news for a few customers these days.
That supposedly 18-karat gold ring bought after hearing a sob story from a couple desperate for gas money?
Dan and Nikki (who asked that their last names not be used) own the Chilliwack jewelry shop, and they’ve had five customers in the last week trying to sell them gold that isn’t gold at all.
“The stuff looks good,” Dan explains. “But if you check it out, the rings are worth maybe $10.”
One ring Dan showed to Black Press would have been worth about $545 at current gold prices if it was real, based on the metal alone. Retail, more like $1,200.
The fake gold is part of what appears to be an elaborate scam, and it isn’t new.
In at least one version of the scam, a hapless person is approached at a gas station or in a parking lot with a sob story from a couple with a van with Alberta licence plates.
In a story relayed to the jewellers, the couple said left Edmonton for a drive but went too far. They didn’t have any money for gas and they needed to get back to Alberta to catch a flight to Dubai.
That’s when they offer up the 18-karat gold rings, necklaces and bracelets for what would be a bargain price. And some people fall for it, whether it’s out of sympathy to help the seemingly desperate couple get some gas money, greed on behalf of the person thinking they’ll make some cash on a gold transaction, or a little of both.
“They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed,” Dan says.
In the case of the couple, once the transaction is done they are very thankful.
“When the money is handed over, they fall over themselves thanking, the woman in tears, they are very professional,” Dan says.
“They’ve got it down,” Nikki adds.
Dan said a couple of men on motorcycles came to his shop and said they paid $300 for two rings, a chain and a bracelet from a couple in Merritt.
One other person was approached at a Chilliwack gas station, one at Pick-A-Part, another in the parking lot at Five Corners.
Since this story was first posted online, several Chilliwack residents reported being approached by the scammers, some fooled by them. Locations reported included: downtown, Yale Road Esso, Value Village, Superstore, in Yarrow, as well as in Abbotsford, Langley, Merritt, Kamloops, Chase, and as far away as Regina, Sask.
And it isn’t just the couple with the van, according to Dan and Nikki. One customer reported it was a single man, also with Alberta plates, in a red car.
It’s reached the point where Dan and Nikki have seen it so often they recognize the jewelry as fake before even giving a closer look. It starts with the fact that men’s rings are almost never 18-karat gold as it would be too soft. Then there is the fact that the rings have no manufacturer’s logo, just the “18K” stamp.
Then Dan pulls out a magnet, and to be sure his acid test. The fake rings are attracted to the magnet, instantly telling Dan and Nikki they are fake. The acid test confirms it.
“This was pretty rampant last year as well, but then it died off,” Dan says. “But now it’s back.”
They also wonder just how widespread it is, considering they’ve had five people come in to their little shop in Chilliwack in just over a week. How many people go to other stores or pawn shops or just keep the jewelry? And how many other towns is this happening in across B.C.?
Dan said he heard there were four instances at gas stations in Abbotsford a couple of weeks ago.
As for a description of the couple, Dan said they are told the couple have accents and are possibly Middle Eastern, or pretending to be. One customer said the man involved in the scam even gave him a business card saying he was a used car salesman from Montreal, with the name Ali Mohammed on it.
Dan and Nikki said they just wanted to warn people so others don’t get duped. And if you think you might have been scammed, Dan said he’ll test to see if it’s real gold at no cost.
“And if it sounds too good to be true, chance are it’s not.”
Chilliwack RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail agreed.
Rail said people should not to be pressured into making these sorts of transactions on the street, particularly if its seems too good to be true.
“Don’t be afraid to say no, and if you suspect fraud, call police.”