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Don't be fooled by parking lot fake gold scheme

Pawn shops say they've seen dozens lose money
Posted at 12:48 PM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 00:23:59-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — News5 Investigates has learned fake gold is being sold in grocery store parking lots and at gas stations in Colorado Springs and people are handing over money for what jewelry experts say is worthless. The jewelry expert we talked with believes in the last few weeks people have lost thousands of dollars. The people selling this fake gold wait for their victims in grocery store and gas station parking lots and ask for "gas money" in exchange for what they say is precious gold. It turns out it's all a scheme to take your money.

Reed Robins runs Altitude Pawn near Austin Bluffs and Academy in Colorado Springs.

“You do see really kind of cool stuff you see with your day-to-day type things like tools, jewelry, firearms, things of that nature," said Robins.

But lately Robins tells News5 he's seeing a troubling trend.

"We see fake stuff from time to time, but not in this volume," said Robins.

Customers one after another bringing in what they thought were valuable gold necklaces and rings.

“We've seen you know 25 or so just in our shop here which means it's around the other pawn shops in town." said Robins. "They've seen a ton also and not everyone goes and buys this and then then goes to a pawn shop trying to sell her or do something with it most of them are probably keeping it.

Robins shows us how he tests gold jewelry to see whether its real or fake.

"So what we're doing is we are taking and making a scratch here which theoretically it should be the gold and then with the brass items with any level of acid it is doing this where it is just dissolving it and that tells you that it is not gold. And as we talked about if you have it here and put it here you're also going to have a discoloration," said Robins as he showed us how he tested the jewelry on his counter top.

It turns out this jewelry is brass. Gold experts at Hallenbeck Coin Gallery say this is why the discovery is so costly.

A men's 30 gram 18 karat gold necklace could be valued at almost $1,000. A 30 gram brass necklace is worthless to most people valued at only a few cents.

"That didn't set off bells until that same day we had like five or six people in with the same thing and by then I was just going I hate to tell you I'm just saying these are just not real,” said Robins.

Customers say they paid for the jewelry in the parking lot of nearby gas stations and grocery stores after being approached by a seller with a desperate story.

"They are approaching saying hey we just need gas. We don’t have the money, or the cash to do this. I’ve got this ring type of a thing, or bracelet or necklace and so it depends. We’ve seen multiple, multiple things," said Robins.

It turns out this scheme isn't unique to Colorado Springs. Just last year it was a major problem in California. Typically the losses in fake gold are anywhere from $40 to a few hundred dollars. Each case on its own will not rise to the level of getting much attention from law enforcement, but Colorado Springs Police say you should still report it because it helps to connect the dots and put a stop to the fraud.

"That adds up. $40 here. $50 there. If it rises to the level of a felony we can put that all together," said CSPD Sgt. Joe Matiatos.

When we first brought these fake gold concerns to CSPD investigators weren't aware this was happening. But now say the work of News5 Investigates will be useful in providing an important citywide warning.

"Hopefully if they are ever approached by somebody, or if they ever think they are going to be scammed they are going to remember these stories and say wait a minute, let me think about this," said Sgt. Matiatos.

After seeing so many of his customers paying for what turns out to be fake gold, Robins says if anyone has concerns about buying parking lot "gold" in the future he's willing to help.

“If it's too good to be true assume it probably is," said Robins. "Like I said, make the offer of saying hey I'll give you the money, but let's go over here and have it tested and see what their reaction is.”

While the people selling this fake gold may move-on to another community businesses who deal in gold here in Colorado Springs tell News5 they've had to make big investments to detect fake gold saying people bring in fake gold purchases to their shops at least once a day.