Knoxville grandmother caught up in gold-for-cash scam

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville woman says she was scammed at a filling station by a performance worthy of an Academy Award.

So, she called WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare, to tell her story so others are aware of how it was pulled off.

The con was pretty slick and apparently well practiced. It happened on a Sunday afternoon, a week ago.

The exchange of conversation was cordial between the 80-year-old grandmother and a clean-cut young man and his family in the car, so she said.

Not realizing she was being targeted, $400 was willingly handed over to the man, in exchange for what he claimed was expensive jewelry he had given her.

“He was driving a new Acura, silver, I saw the children and his wife, I assumed,” Jewel said. “He said, ‘excuse me can I talk to you for a minute.’ He is sitting in his car. He said he needed money to get back home to Miami. Because he stayed at a motel here and someone had stolen his and her wallet. He wanted to know if I could help him with gas and a motel to get back home.”


Jewel told him she didn’t have any cash with her. At that point, Jewel said the man pulled out four pieces of jewelry, claimed they were real and valuable, and she could have them in exchange for cash.

“He said it was 14 carat, and it was worth $4,000 in value.”


She said the man gave her a sob story saying he wouldn’t be able to return to South Florida without having cash for the trip. He wanted Jewel to keep the so-called 14 carat jewelry in exchange for money.

“So sad and all, I believed it. I said I can go to the ATM.”


Without being threatened, Jewel went to her ATM, withdrew $400, and gave it to the man. Curious about the jewelry, she had them appraised.

Jewel was told the pieces were cheap brass — a phony.

“I was not thinking clearly, otherwise, if I would have said let me have your name and address, so when you get on your feet you can have your jewelry back.”


So, how do you know the difference between real scammers and people in real need.

  1. Slow it down, ask questions. Scammers often create a sense of urgency so that they can bypass your better instincts.
  2. Use common sense. Be aware of a sad story. If compelled to assist, offer money to buy gas on the spot, nothing more.
  3. Don’t ever offer to go to an ATM or providing a gift card. No matter how sad the story, if the payment feels fishy, it probably is.

“My heart was in the right place, that’s okay too.”


A question presents itself in this incident, had a crime been committed when the man accepted the cash for the fake jewelry in exchange?

Legal experts say, technically, yes. It was fraud, the man wasn’t honest.

However, would it stand up in court, when Jewel willingly gave him the money? That remains unknown.

Police say to use your best judgment if you are approached by a stranger making a similar request for money.


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