Unscrupulous cash for gold sales exposed

TRADING Standards officials today warned people to beware of "unscrupulous" cash-for-gold traders offering as little as a quarter of jewellery's true value.

City council officers posing as members of the public sent hundreds of pounds worth of gold to 23 companies and were concerned by some responses.

One gold necklace that officers posted, valued by experts at between 270 and 300, received offers as low as 68.97, while one bangle was even returned to them with a small clip missing.

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Two bangles and a ring, valued at between 150 and 170, were deemed to be worth just 47.87 by one firm – although the offer was upped to 87.87 when the officers protested, without revealing their true identity.

Some firms are targeting vulnerable people by using "glitzy advertising campaigns" and relying on them not knowing the true value of their possessions, the council warned.

The investigation also showed vastly different results between the 17 pawn shops and jewellers and six postal firms tested, many of which have launched high-profile advertising campaigns since the price of gold began to rapidly increase 18 months ago.

Trading Standards are urging people considering selling their gold to shop around to make sure they get a fair price and not to be too ready to accept a first offer.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the councillor responsible for Trading Standards, said: "It is staggering to see such wide variations in the prices offered for gold. While you would expect gold traders to be making some profit when buying gold, certain unscrupulous individuals and companies are obviously offering way below the market value.

"Remember that gold market prices are fixed twice daily, and you can check the web for the current gold-buying price. We also found that often when we refused a company's first offer, subsequent offers were much better – so don't feel pressured."

Scott Walter, Assay Master at the Edinburgh Assay Office, said that checking the daily gold price and the hallmark used on real gold can save people from being ripped off. He said: "Because the hallmark is stamped into the precious metal it is a permanent and enduring guarantee that stays with the article."