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Two Teens Charged in Craigslist Gold Scam

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Two 17-year-old high school students allegedly raked in nearly $60,000 selling fake gold bars on Craigslist, underscoring the importance of buying gold and silver from a reputable dealer.

Police in Bend, OR, arrested Robert Yelas Jr. and Caleb Knight on March 21, after they caught on to the scam. Investigators called Yelas the mastermind behind the online criminal enterprise. Police say the teens bought fake gold bars from aliexpress.com, an online retailer owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The counterfeit bars were packaged to look like they came from the Royal Canadian Mint and Perth Mint. According to the The Bulletin, Yelas netted as much as $22,000 in one sale. He reportedly used some of the money to buy cars, including a Mercedes and an F250 pickup.

According to court documents, Yelas said after connecting with potential customers through Craigslist, he arranged the sales via email and text message and usually sent Knight to complete the transactions in person.

The scheme unraveled when a coin dealer who got caught up in the scam noticed the dimensions of the gold bars seemed off. He ran an acid test and found the bars were fake. They were primarily made of nickel or copper, and contained only about $1 in gold.

Police charged the duo with aggravated first-degree theft by deception, first-degree theft by deception, felony computer crime, felony criminal conspiracy and money laundering. Yelas and Knight were initially charged as juveniles, but the Deschutes County district attorney said they may face adult charges.

This story underscores the risk of buying gold and silver from sites like Craigslist. They can be a playground for scammers, and you really have no idea what you’re getting. You may think you’re getting a great deal, saving money on shipping costs, and avoiding other fees, but you run a high risk of getting scammed. The fact that a couple of high school students could pull off such a scam proves the risk.

With so many new buyers in the marketplace, scams and bad deals are everywhere. A good rule of thumb: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid becoming a victim. Simply buy your precious metals from a trustworthy, reputable dealer.  Peter Schiff founded SchiffGold to provide investors with a safe option from a name you can trust.

To learn more about precious metals scams and how to avoid them download our free Classic Gold Scams report.

Get Peter Schiff’s latest gold market analysis – click here for a free subscription to his exclusive monthly Gold Videocast.
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