(Public domain image).

Beware of summertime scammers using the stranded family ploy in Red Deer

“They play on your sympathy,” says RCMP constable

A family, with little children in the car, appears destitute and stranded.

A woman from the vehicle approaches to say her credit card won’t work. She offers to trade some gold jewelry for gas money. What do you do?

According to Const. Derek Turner of Red Deer RCMP, you get the car’s licence plate number and report the incident to police.

“You don’t ‘buy ’ gold on the street because there’s no way to check if it’s real,” said Turner, who can pretty much guarantee it will turn out to be costume jewelry.

This is becoming a common summertime scam. It happens while people are travelling during holiday season, he added. “These people usually don’t stay in one place,” but attempt the ploy in different communities and provinces.

The scenario played out in Red Deer Tuesday afternoon, when Michele Henry was approached by a stranger, “who had no respect for personal space.” This woman pled with her for gas money in the parking lot of a Red Deer restaurant. She offered to trade her gold jewelry for enough cash to get her family to Vancouver.

Henry responded “we don’t buy gold,” and told her to go to a pawn shop. The woman replied that they couldn’t deal with a pawn shop because they had no ID — which didn’t wash with Henry, who pointed out someone had to have a driver’s licence for their vehicle.

“I’ve travelled enough,” said Henry, that she’s on to most scams. (This one was also apparently pulled in Ottawa, according to her friend, who lives there.

But other Central Albertans might not be as skeptical. After Henry posted her incident on Facebook as a cautionary tale, comments indicated the same scam was pulled in Rocky Mountain House and Penhold, where one kind-hearted man gave the family $100 without trading for jewelry.

“Beware,” said Turner — “These people are pretty aggressive… They can try to manipulate the situation in their favour.”

Someone, who’s either hoping to get a golden deal or is soft-hearted, will get ripped off. “The point is, it looks like a poor family with kids. They play on your sympathy,” he added.

Another kind of summertime scam involves so-called construction crews ringing residential doorbells. They say they have leftover concrete (or shingles or siding) from a larger job, and can install the material at your home for a cut-rate.

Homeowners will later discover these workmen have either left with the money that was paid up-front, or have done a poor or incomplete job.

Turner advises calling the construction company (find the number independently, don’t use the one printed on the card they might hand you) to verify the offer, and then check Better Business Bureau listings before handing over any cash.

The same applies if someone from a charitable organization comes to your door seeking donations.

He added. “There’s always people out there trying to take your hard-earned money,” so it’s wise to take precautions.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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