If You See This in a Parking Lot, Call 911 Immediately, Police Warn
Officials are alerting about an increase in this threat across the U.S.
Parking lots are considered to be some of the most dangerous areas in the U.S., whether it be because of poor lighting, a lack of security, or easy entry for just about anyone. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reported that in 2020, more than six percent of all violent crimes that occurred in the country happened in a parking lot or garage—making it the third most common area for these dangerous types of incidents. And now, police have a new warning about what you should keep an eye out for the next time you finding yourself in a parking lot. Read on to find out what should prompt you to call 911 immediately.
Police have issued a number of recent warnings.
Police departments all across the country issue warnings to residents whenever they have received reports about suspicious activity. Officials in San Antonio, Texas, had to send out a public alert in Jan. 2022 about scam artists sticking fraudulent QR codes on public meters to trick people into giving up their private payment information by "paying for parking" on a fake website. And then more recently in June, the Chicago Police Department cautioned citizens against opening the doors to their home up to people asking about repairs or water problems. According to the officials, many con artists use this tactic to distract victims and while another person enters their home to steal valuables, jewelry, and money.
Now officials are alerting Americans about a new threat.
A police department in Pennsylvania has just issued a new warning about suspicious activity in the state. Officials from the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department in Luzerne County told NBC-affiliate WBRE that they've recently received an increasing number of reports from people who say they were approached in a parking lot by someone attempting to sell them jewelry or watches. According to the department, these are usually scammers selling counterfeit or fake jewelry that appears to be real at a "too good to be true price."
"Ask yourself: If you are buying a Rolex in a parking lot, how real could it actually be?," the police warned.
This scam is also popping up in other areas around the U.S.
This is not just a worry for those in Pennsylvania, however. On June 26, the Idaho State Journal reported that jewelry stores in Pocatello, Idaho, are seeing numerous pieces of fake gold that people in the area unknowingly brought from con artists. Molinelli's Jewelers told the newspaper that it has been "bombarded with numerous pieces of fake gold all with the same story." They said, their customers were approached by someone in a parking lot who said they were stranded and needed gas money, and offered jewelry claimed to be made of pure gold in exchange for cash.
"Please keep in mind, gold is very easy to liquidate and if someone is in possession of this much gold, they will not be in need of gas money or sell it for whatever you are willing to offer," Molinelli's Jewelers wrote in a Facebook warning, adding that they were visited by one person in the area who had been scammed out of $1,800.
This type of scam has also been reported recently in other parts of the country such as Minot, North Dakota; Elmira, New York; and Ottawa, Kansas. In both Idaho and Kansas, jewelers warned that the jewelry was stamped with "18k," which is typically a sign of fake gold. "18k is a really high quality of gold. Chains seem to be the number one thing that is made illegally and stamped incorrectly so they can take advantage of people," Cathy Sutton, one of the owners of Sutton's Jewelry in Ottawa, told NBC-affiliate 27 News, adding that she has also seen other types of jewelry—like rings—stamped with this fraudulent mark.
If you see someone selling jewelry in a parking lot, call police immediately.
Police from the Wilkes-Barre Township department told WBRE that people should call 911 immediately if they are approached by anyone trying to sell jewelry in a parking lot so that they can describe the potential scammers and their vehicles. But in Ottawa, officials said they had not received any police reports related to fake jewelry scams despite jewelers reporting about a rising number of anecdotal stories. According to Sutton, this is likely because people feel embarrassed reporting that they had fallen victim to this scam.
But officials warn that whether or not you were scammed out of actual money—you need to report it whenever you see it happening. "Often people may not think it's important to report these types of scams if they did not fall for it," Adam Weingartner, chief of police with the Ottawa Police Department, told 27 News. "But it is always important to let law enforcement know so we can help spread the word to protect residents."