Sioux Falls has seen a rise in people selling fake jewelry for cash in the past week, Sioux Falls Police Department officials say.
In the previous week, police have dealt with three reports of residents being sold fake jewelry, according to department spokesman Sam Clemens. Police believe all three cases are related.
On April 21, a white SUV approached a man in the parking lot of a gas station in central Sioux Falls, Clemens said. The occupants told the man they had fallen on hard times and offered jewelry in exchange for money to get back home.
The suspects ended up driving away with about $8,000, Clemens said. Two other cases were reported with the victims giving a few hundred dollars in cash to the suspect.
How common is the fake jewelry scam?
“It is a lot more common than you would think,” said Jim Cheskey, owner of Action Pawn and Gun in Sioux Falls.
He said in the past week four people came in saying a person had sold them a piece of jewelry that after a further look turned out to be fake.
In cities around the country, people have also reported being scammed in similar ways. Jewelers, pawn shops and law enforcement continue to warn people to be aware of the issue.
How are suspects doing this?
Scammers typically say they are trying to get cash to get back home or buy gas to get somewhere, Cheskey said.
“Usually they give them this hard luck story and tell them they have this ring and need money,” he said.
The man who made out with $8,000 told the victim his family needed money to get back to California, Clemens said. He told them he would wire him the money to pay back what he had borrowed.
Other cases around the country say suspects tell victims they need money to pay hospital bills or simply that they left their wallet at home.
What to do to protect yourself?
But there are ways to spot the real from the fake. One way is to look for physical characteristics, according to an article by Joshua James Jewelry, an international jeweler.
If no hallmarks or brand marketing on the piece exists, chances are high the piece is fake, the article said.
Other physical tests include checking the jewelry for brand names and discoloration, or try breathing on the stone. A real diamond does not fog up, the article states.
“Seems like a lot of it is stamped 18 karat,” Sunset Pawn owner Bob Stoops said. “Then it ends up being nothing but brass which is really a shame because you throw a lot of money at it.”
If an opportunity presents itself take it somewhere to get a second opinion first, Stoops said.
“Stop into a jewelry store or a pawn shop or somebody who can deals with precious metals and ask if they can check it,” he said.