A local goldsmith is warning people not to buy jewellery off the street from strangers.
Vahe (Harry) Shimoon owns and runs Renaissance Goldsmiths in Peace River and says he regularly has people come in looking for an appraisal on jewellery that turns out to be fake.
“I see it every week,” he says.
Shimoon says that the scammers will commonly come up to someone on the street or in a bar.
“They are playing on people’s kindness. They just go and give them that sad story, we lost our job, we are waiting to go home, our children are homeless,” he says.
The seller will then offer to sell their “gold” jewellery, which they say is worth thousands of dollars, at a “cheap” price of a couple of hundred dollars.
The buyer thinks they are helping out someone in need while getting a great deal themselves on a valuable piece of gold jewellery.
“It’s incredible. They get everyone, of every age. Mostly men because men carry cash in their pockets. That’s what they depend on, is cash,” Shimoon says.
The jewellery looks like gold and has 18K stamped on it.
“When they come in they are bright, that bright gold colour.” Shimoon says.
“People are looking at the stamps and they see 18K stamped. There is no manufacturer label on it.”
The stamp is fake. Shimoon says the jewellery is actually polished brass and the fake gold plating shortly wears off and the jewellery then tarnishes quickly.
Shimoon says people come into his store who have paid hundreds of dollars for chains and rings that might be worth $10.
“They come in all excited, what did I make, what is it worth,” he says.
Shimoon then has to tell them the jewellery is actually fake and worth almost nothing.
“They get mad, they get sad,” he says.
“They got three guys at the gas station, here’s my gold ring, just fill up my tank,” Shimoon says.
Shimoon says one client told him he bought one chain at a bar and then was tricked into buying two more.
“He said, ‘I paid him $200 and I took the chain, and I see the guy’s wife in the corner praying out loud, thank you Lord, you sent us a saviour , our children will eat.’ So, he bought two more. He paid $600 and he came in and I said these are fakes,” Shimoon says. “These are thieves.”
“He goes, throw them in the garbage. I go, you throw them in your own garbage. I don’t want it in here so you think I’m pretending and I’m keeping them once you’re gone,” Shimoon says.
Shimoon says he has had people from Falher, Donnelly, High Level, Grande Prairie, and Peace River all bring in fake jewellery for appraisal, showing there may be multiple people across the Peace selling the fakes.
Shimoon has even been approached on the street himself.
“I yelled at him I know your jewellery is fake, I’m calling the cops,” he says.
Shimoon says he has spoken to the police, but he says more people need to complain and identify the fake jewellery sellers to police.
Without a receipt, the cash transaction is also almost impossible to prove or trace, so it’s best if people don’t fall for the scam in the first place and instead only buy gold jewellery from reputable sellers.