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Cape Breton police investigating gold-for-gas scam that targets unsuspecting drivers


Police in Cape Breton are investigating reports of a scam involving a seemingly stranded motorist flagging down drivers and offering gold jewelry in exchange for money to pay for gas or repairs.

In Sydney, N.S., jeweller Kim Boudreau said that in the past three weeks, five people have come to her shop hoping to sell gold bracelets and rings that turned out to be fakes.

All of them told similar stories about how they were scammed by a frantic driver who said they had run out of gas or were stranded by a breakdown.

Boudreau said one victim said he was on his way home from a funeral for a friend when he pulled over on an off-ramp to help another driver.

"(The victim) was in a very vulnerable state and he pulled over to help this man, who was very frantically waving," Boudreau, the owner of Kreative Design, said in an interview Wednesday.

"I said, 'Oh my dear, I think you might have gotten scammed.' I did the acid test on his gold, and I told him it wasn't gold. He was heartbroken ... He had given them all the money he had in his pocket."

She said another victim told her he was so determined to help the supposedly stranded motorist that he went to the bank and agreed to hand over a $5,000 loan.

"He said, 'I did it out of the kindness of my heart, and I didn't expect anything."' Boudreau said. "The (con artists) are playing on our emotions. We're generally kind people in Cape Breton."

The spot price for gold in Canada was hovering around $3,200 per troy ounce on Wednesday afternoon.

Kim Boudreau, a longtime jeweler in Sydney, N.S., has been approached by five people in the last three weeks hoping to sell gold bracelets and rings in exchange for money for gas or repairs, which turned out to be fakes. Examples of the chains and a ring are seen in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kim Boudreau

Desiree Magnus, spokesperson for Cape Breton Regional Police, said five people have come forward with similar stories since May, all of them saying they declined when asked if they would exchange gas money for gold trinkets.

Magnus said the suspects were gone by the time police arrived to investigate, and she says those who complained to police could not provide much of a description.

"Many of these instances are not being reported to police," Magnus said in an interview. "We certainly understand that there may be some embarrassment, but there's no judgment from us as police. We want to know this information because it helps us investigate what's happening."

She said if anyone is approached by a motorist asking for money for gas, the best option is to make an offer to get the gas, she said.

"You'll quickly realize whether it is valid or not," Magnus said, adding that another option is to contact police or a towing service. "We would remind people that if you are approached for this kind of transaction, ask lots of questions to see if the offer is genuine."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2024.

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