If you are buying gold jewelry as a late Valentine’s Day gift … get it at a store, not on the side of the road.
A scam that is becoming more and more common across the state sees people selling fake gold along freeways.
The grift always starts with a person pulled over on the shoulder of a freeway, a highway, an on-ramp, or an off-ramp, pretending their car broke down. When a good Samaritan stops to help, the crook will say they are stranded and need money for car repairs or gas — so they will offer to trade “gold” in exchange for cash.
“They’re making it seem like people giving them cash are getting the better end of the deal because they’re going to take a loss on this gold,” said Washington State Trooper Kelsey Harding, who serves as a public information officer for Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, and Island Counties.
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In reality, however, the jewelry is worthless.
Harding said the amount of money the thieves get from drivers each time varies, ranging from $100 to, in at least one case, $4,000.
Worse, some of the fraudsters will make it appear as though they have a family stranded with them to prey on people’s sympathies.
“They will have a female in the car and some kids, whether that truly is their family or not … trying to appeal to people, trying to get vulnerable people who are very compassionate,” Harding said.
Today one was caught in the act. This was the fake gold he was in possession of. Please share with individuals you know that may be more likely to fall victim to this. They are preying on good samaritans that are stopping to try to help. RO 2/2 pic.twitter.com/JOPPVdbfWF
— Trooper Kelsey Harding (@wspd7pio) February 13, 2023
Troopers do not know if it is the same ring of people pulling the con each time, or if the people are unconnected. While the swindler is usually a man, there is no consistent description of the suspects or the vehicles they use. It is also not clear if those responsible are connected to similar rackets in the past.
What is clear is this specific crime is happening more and more often. In just the past six weeks, troopers knew of approximately 50 instances occurring across the state — and those are just the times that got reported.
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If you see someone on the side of the road trying to send gold to people — even if they do not approach you — call 911.
“If someone is trying to sell gold and they’re on the side of I-5, something is wrong with that, it doesn’t seem right, and we encourage people to call law enforcement,” Harding said.
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