WSP: Increase in gold scammers seen along Washington highways

Though the scam isn’t new, it may be new to you. Data collected by the Washington State Patrol shows since May of 2020, the agency has received 374 separate reports of scammers selling fake gold.

Police said in the past that typically, a well-dressed family with small children in an expensive rental car will look desperate, flagging down people on the sides of freeways with stories about their money and credit cards being stolen. They’re stranded, they say, and they offer real-looking jewelry — often rings, necklaces and watches they’re wearing — for cash.

That was the case when KIRO 7 covered the scam in 2021, but the Washington State Patrol is again reporting an increase in gold scammers along highways.

Good Samaritans who bought the jewelry with cash and later checked out its value discovered it was copper or brass. In some cases, the jewelry was stamped with “18 karat gold.”

Since 2018, the fake jewelry ploy has been reported from California to Canada.

In 2018, WSP investigators called the scheme part of an aggressive crime ring. Hundreds of victims were duped by people in rental cars with kids that often aren’t theirs and selling jewelry that’s not real gold.

As the scam continues in 2023, on Monday troopers said they were able to catch one of the scammers, who was found with a variety of fake gold jewelry. State trooper Kelsey Harding says authorities in Snohomish County have seen a recent increase in this kind of crime.

“It’s sad that they’re preying on people who could be compassionate,” said Harding. “Someone was taken for $4,000. I mean, that’s a big chunk of change. For some people that could be two months rent!”

Anyone who encounters the scam is asked to call 911.