HONOLULU (KHON2) — Police departments across Hawaii are warning residents not to buy jewelry off the street as reports of counterfeit scams spike.

Big Island police said victims are being targeted in public places like stores, parking lots and parks.

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The suspects all seem to have a sob story, according to officials.

“Saying they’re a victim of misfortune, saying their passports were either lost, stolen, their wallets were lost or stolen and that they need money to go back to wherever they’re from, their country of origin,” said Hawaii Police Department officer Christopher Fukumoto.

The suspects attempt to give their victims a supposedly-great deal on an expensive piece of jewelry.
Photos from Hawaii police show just how realistic the pieces look, police on Kauai have also warned the public about these scams.

“I’m not an expert or anything like that, but it looks and feels like the real deal, actual gold,” Fukumoto said.

Homeland Security Investigations added that counterfeit items often come with health risks.

“We have found that many of these items can contain toxins, you know, to include lead that when they touch your skin, can either have you get sick or some kind of allergic reaction,” said John Tobon, Homeland Security Investigations Honolulu special agent in-charge.

It is not a crime to sell knockoff merchandise as long as the item is advertised as such.

“What is illegal is the deceit where you tell someone, for example, ‘This is 18 karat pure gold,’ when it in fact does not have any gold in it.

Christopher Fukumoto, Hawaii Police Department officer

Though the incidents tend to happen in public, Maui resident Liz Castaneda told KHON2 that scammers pulled right up to her home in North Kihei. She said they were selling jewelry they claimed was worth $9,000 for just over $1,000.

“They were trying to find a job on Maui and they couldn’t find it and they needed money to go back to New York, apparently,” Castaneda said. “And my husband’s like, ‘Oh, you need a job? I can help you find a job! My boss is hiring!’ And they’re like, ‘No, at this point we’re just ready to go home cause we have nowhere to live and such.”

Castaneda luckily recognized the scam from recent social media posts and shooed the potential fraudsters away.

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Honolulu police said they are investigating about 12 of these theft cases on Oahu and recommended that folks walk away if they find themselves in a similar situation.