A recurring seasonal scam has reared its head once more, prompting RCMP in the B.C. Southern Interior to caution people about the “fake gold scam”, which is on the rise in a number of centres including Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Cranbrook, and the North Okanagan.
COVID-19 restrictions might have played a part in reducing the scam in the early part of 2020, but reports indicate that scammers are now travelling throughout the region, offering people an opportunity to buy “gold” jewellery at a good price. Needless to say, the “gold” is fake, and by the time the purchaser realizes this the scammers are long gone.
RCMP Southeast District Crime Analysts found that a total of 61 reports of fake gold scams were reported to the RCMP across the Southeast District between April and December 2019. Scammers were active in small communities as well as in larger urban centres, and conned residents out of an estimated $15,000.
“Generally these scammers approach their potential victims in higher traffic areas such as gas stations, grocery stores, shopping malls, or plazas,” says Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP in the Southeast District. “They often target the kind of individuals who have a natural inclination to want to help someone in need or distress.”
A common approach is for the scammer to target a victim and offer to sell them gold jewellery. After the transaction is completed and the scammer has walked away, the victim discovers that the gold is not real. In a variant of the scam, the fraudster approaches an individual and asks for money, often claiming to have lost their wallet and needing funds for hospital bills or to escape an abusive domestic relationship. In this scenario, the con artist offers gold jewellery to the victim as collateral. The victim later discovers that the gold is not real, and does not hear back from the suspect.
The scammers can be adult males or females, and often appear South Asian or Middle Eastern. They sometimes claim to be from Dubai or Saudi Arabia, and are usually associated with, and traveling around in, rental vehicles, sometimes with small children.
“We recognize that many occurrences go unreported, as oftentimes victims are embarrassed to acknowledge that they have fallen for these tactics,” says O’Donaghey. “If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a similar scam, please call your local police.
“As we continue to transition into our new normal, RCMP ask residents to use their common sense and intuition to avoid such scams that will hit you in your wallet.”