Gold jewelry, foreign currency: Your weekly ScamWatch

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Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.

Investment fraud -- A Florida man has pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with a $30-million investment fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced. David R. Lewalski, 47, had been accused of defrauding investors in his company Botfly by claiming he could provide monthly returns of up to 10% trading foreign currency but instead using new investors’ money to pay returns to earlier investors. Lewalski also spent millions of investor funds on himself, including jet travel, jewelry and high-end real estate, federal prosecutors said.

Selling your gold -- With the price of gold above $1,700 an ounce, some cash-strapped Americans are deciding to sell some of their gold jewelry. The Better Business Bureau says consumers should take precautions to make sure they get a fair price. It recommends that no matter where they’re selling, consumers take their jewelry to several appraisers before selling to a gold buyer. The BBB also said consumers should ask buyers how much they’ll be paid per ounce and get several quotes. The group cautioned consumers not to let jewelry of different karats be weighed together: Some buyers weigh all gold together and pay only the price for the lowest-quality gold.

Investing in volatile times -- Investment scams often increase during volatile economic times, the Better Business Bureau said in a recent news release. When making investments, consumers should look out for warning signs of potential fraud, the group said. Reputable investment advisors will not promise high returns with little risk, will not use high-pressure sales tactics such as claiming there’s a deadline to get in on the investment and very rarely will contact investors unsolicited, the BBB said.



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-- Stuart Pfeifer