IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Fake jewelry scams are on the rise in Ionia County and police are now warning shoppers to think twice before purchasing ‘gold’ on the streets.
Ionia County undersheriff Andrew Bucholtz said the culprits normally work in pairs and target gas stations and store parking lots near highways. Bucholtz said they draw in victims by claiming that they have an emergency.
“I’ve got family members that are hurt, or I’m trying to get back home, I need gas money. Here look, I’m not asking you for something for nothing, here’s some Rolex, or here’s some fancy jewelry, it’s 18 Karat gold, whatever it may be. I’m going to give you a great deal on it,” Bucholtz said.
After the jewelry is tested, Bucholtz said it turns out to be fake. It can be a costly mistake for those that make the trade.
“I’ve seen reports where there’s been thousands, I’ve seen other reports where there’s only hundreds,” Bucholtz said.
Paul Behan, the owner of The Gold and Silver Exchange in Grand Rapids, said he’s seen at least 25 victims of a similar scam come into his stores hoping to cash in on the jewelry they purchased.
“It’s worthless because when they bring it in here to sell it, it’s not even gold. It’s not even close,” Behan said.
Behan said it’s not easy to let people know that they were ripped off.
“It’s hard to tell people that they just got screwed, but unfortunately that’s exactly what happened,” Behan said.
Law enforcement is now encouraging shoppers to only purchase jewelry at reputable dealers and to think before they hand over their cash.
“If you’re ever questioning it and you just don’t know, the biggest thing is just stop and back out,” Bucholtz said.
Police in Portland says the suspects have been described as well-dressed and drivers of high-end rental cars. Bucholtz said a few suspects have been identified, but it’s not clear if they are responsible for all of the scams the county is seeing.
If you’ve been a victim of the scam, you’re encouraged to contact Ionia Central Dispatch at 616.527.0400.