'Buried treasure' scam could be returning: RCMP
Richmond RCMP are warning the public about the possible return of a scam involving fake gold. (RCMP handout)
VANCOUVER - The Richmond RCMP are warning the public about the possible comeback of an elaborate scam involving gold and buried treasure.
The fraud involves a scammer posing as a construction worker with no legal status in the country who, while working, claims to have uncovered some buried treasure. They claim the so-called treasure contains a large number of gold nuggets or solid gold Buddha statues, as well as a hand-written note.
The scammer's victim is usually someone targeted for their wealth and found through social media or advertising and often speak Mandarin as their first language. The scammer will then ask the victim for assistance and offer to sell them some of the gold for a fraction of its market value.
"At the meeting, one of the suspects saws off a piece from one of the gold ingots, switches it with a piece of real gold and provides it to the victim," said Cpl. Dennis Hwang in a statement. The piece of gold given to the victim is made of real gold.
"The victim has the piece analyzed independently and is authenticated to be real and high purity gold," he said. Hwang said the scammers will then arrange for the victim to buy the rest of the fake gold for cash. Police said the scammers then flee the area once the transaction is complete.
Richmond RCMP said they have no reports of the scam resurfacing locally yet, but they wanted to proactively warn the public.
"People may have forgotten about the scam and were not targeted in previous years," said Hwang. "The suspects travel from place to place. We believe it is a particular group that specializes in this scam."
In 2015, Richmond RCMP announced Bao Sheng Zhong had been charged with three counts of fraud after he was accused of convincing people to buy fake gold ingots and Buddha figures.
In 2018, the Canada Border Services Agency as well as Richmond RCMP's economic crime unit investigated two Chinese nationals who were accused of trying to sell phoney gold artifacts. Fraud charges were later laid against Dejin Xu and Zhong Yang.
RCMP said there have been several reports from the U.S. of the scam becoming popular again, and authorities in the States have shared their data with local police to prevent its resurgence.