2nd February 2021

Fur coats and fraudsters

In Germany, fur coat purchases being used as a cover for buying jewellery – and it’s only a matter of time before the same scam appears in the UK, says Robert Grice.

By Robert Grice
Although I have not seen this  in the UK yet, there is no doubt that it will soon appear – fraudsters are always alert to an opportunity to get rich quick

For many people times are hard and they are struggling to cope financially. The economic situation is forcing many to sell items in order to raise cash. Such circumstances always present fraudsters with an opportunity to practise their deceit and to prey upon the vulnerable and uninformed.

Whilst recently watching German television, I came across the latest scam being practised in Germany – the fur coat/gold scam. Although I have not seen this  in the UK yet, there is no doubt that it will soon appear – fraudsters are always alert to an opportunity to get rich quick.

In Germany, adverts have started to appear in newspapers and circulars asking people if they wish to sell their fur coats. The fraudsters know of course that fur coats are often owned by elderly ladies, some of whom may be in need of money and may be prepared to sell them.

The fraudsters are also well aware that elderly ladies often possess various items of jewellery, gold and silver. This combination of factors provides the perfect backcloth for the latest scam, which is played out as follows.

The seller answers the advert and says that she has a fur coat to sell. The fraudster then visits the seller’s home and examines the fur coat/s. He tells her that unfortunately the value of the items is not very high. However, since he is there, it may also be the case that she has some old jewellery to sell and he could have a look at that. The stage is now set.

The seller then produces her jewellery, gold or silver, and asks the fraudster if he can take a look at it – after all, she had been thinking of selling some of it. The fraudster then says that of course he would be prepared to offer a fair price.

Now the fraudster produces a set of scales and a chemical set with which to test the gold/silver. Clearly, being equipped with such items, he was never really interested in the fur coat/s. It was all a ruse to gain access to jewellery, silver and gold.

The fraudster examines the items (sometimes weighing them and sometimes not) and then offers his ‘fair’ price. You will not be surprised to learn that the ‘fair price’ offered is actually about one third of the real value.

When the seller seems surprised at the low value of her precious items, the fraudster spins his tale. Some of these items are not real gold. He has overheads to pay. The price shown per gram on the stock market does not reflect the actual price that buyers have to deal with, etc. However, he understands her position and does want to be fair, therefore he is prepared to offer a little more.

If the seller accepts the offer, the scam is complete (another consumer defrauded) and the fraudster takes his ill-gotten gains.

On the lookout

In the programme that I watched, this scenario was filmed using hidden cameras, with jewellery experts being in attendance behind the scenes watching the drama as it unfolded. However, no enforcement agency was present. This was merely a consumer television programme attempting to warn the public of this scam.

When the fraudster was confronted by the television crew and the jewellery expert, he stated that his price was the price that he was prepared to offer. If they (the TV crew and the expert) thought that the items were worth more, then they could buy the items from the lady. The fraudster then simply left the premises.

I noticed that the scales used were a small digital pair – whether they were legal or not, was not commented on by the narrator. Certainly the price offered was not made in relation to weight.

So, the moral of this story:

  • Fur coats can hide a multitude of things: fraudsters, unfair values, inaccurate weighing machines, deceit and theft.
  • Watch out for this latest scam to reach the shores of the UK. Rather like the latest blockbuster, it will be coming along shortly.
  • Never sell your jewellery, gold or silver at home (do not even tell people that you have these items at home). Like most things under your fur coat, keep them hidden.
  • Remember:

Trading standards is there to offer assistance. The UK Assay Offices are there to give you expert, accurate and honest assessments of your precious gold and silver items.

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